Oxlade-Chamberlain absence hands Walcott prime chance

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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s clash of knees with Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano on Tuesday night is a blow to Arsenal’s titles hopes this term, but it could hand Theo Walcott a perfect chance to stake his place in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad.

Arsene Wenger revealed this week that the Ox is set to miss a number of weeks following the awkward coming together with the Barca man.

Having been ousted in the starting line-up by his fellow ex-Southampton winger, Walcott is now staring at a run of starts in the first-team at a crucial point of the campaign.

A failure to keep himself in Wenger’s first eleven consistently has arguably hindered the Englishman’s progress down the years, but now only Joel Campbell is Wenger’s alternative option in the three behind Olivier Giroud up front.

Amazingly Walcott has never been in an England squad at the European Championships, with the Three Lions infamously failing to reach Austria and Switzerland in 2008, before injury curtailed the pacey forward’s hopes four years later.

There is stiff competition for a place in Roy Hodgson’s squad, with Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and skipper Wayne Rooney all pretty confident of a place in France.

With Daniel Sturridge back fit for Liverpool, and Walcott’s team-mate Danny Welbeck also back in action, one or maybe two of the trio could yet each make the plane/ferry/Eurostar to France if they can find form in the remaining months of the campaign.

Walcott’s first opportunity is this weekend at a newly-revived Manchester United.

The 26-year-old has netted twice against the Red Devils, but was at his very finest in this season’s reverse fixture.

Causing all sorts of mayhem for the United back-line, Walcott’s pace and movement was key as Arsenal raced into a 3-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes at the Emirates.

At 8/1 to score first and 31/10 anytime, Walcott could provide some hefty winnings should he find his shooting boots.

He’s likely to be handed plenty of opportunity to impress in the coming weeks with Arsenal still in the hunt for FA Cup and, technically, Champions League glory, but as if the ever-enduring question with Walcott, can he take his chances?

All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing.

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