England manager Roy Hodgson believes Theo Walcott has to “satisfy a few of his critics” and claims the winger faces an “important few months” at Arsenal.
The 26-year-old returned from a 10-month layoff in November but a groin injury has added to a disrupted campaign in which he has managed just five starts in all competitions.
Walcott has been named in the England squad for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania on Friday, as well as Tuesday’s friendly with Italy, but has been warned by Hodgson that he is not considered an automatic starter for the national team, given his lack of playing time at Arsenal.
“That’s the thing about football, isn’t it? If you’re not careful, there’s always someone behind you waiting to take your place,” said the England boss.
“It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Every time, sometimes through no fault of your own, you can be injured. But then, suddenly, your position, which had looked very secure, suddenly six months down the line, is not so secure.
“Crossroads is probably quite a tough term. I don’t want to be quoted saying he’s at a crossroads. But it is an important few months for him.
“He’s got to satisfy a few of his critics and, if you like, make certain that a) he stays fit and b) gets his place back as one of the first names on the Arsenal team sheet. When he does that, he might be pushing to be a first name on the England team sheet.”