talkSPORT journalist Alex Crook was left baffled by Ralph Hasenhuttl’s decision to exclude Theo Walcott from Southampton’s starting line-up in the Saints’ FA Cup semi-final defeat, with the ex-Arsenal and on-loan Everton winger confined to the bench.
Walcott is a three-time FA Cup winner and also won the Community Shield twice, but Hasenhuttl’s decision not to include Walcott in the starting line-up is not foreign to his preferences.
He has only started in 55% of starting XIs in the league this season, painting a portrait of the winger as more of a rotational option.
With just two goals and three assists for the Saints in 18 Premier League appearances, he is far from a guaranteed threat – but Southampton’s showing in their 1-0 capitulation to Leicester left a lot to be desired.
Speaking on talkSPORT’s GameDay podcast, the journalist picked out Walcott’s experience and previous success in cup finals as justifications for why the Saints missed a trick in his absence:
“He’s their most experienced campaigner when it comes to Wembley, when it comes to the FA Cup. He’s scored in a cup final; I don’t understand why you would leave a player like that if you’re a team like Southampton, why you would not utilise that experience and why you would leave him on the bench.”
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It would be all-too-easy to justify Walcott’s inclusion with the benefit of hindsight, but it cannot be ignored that the Saints were impotent and out-foxed by the Foxes at Wembley.
Southampton managed six shots in the entire game compared to Leicester’s 10, but not a single effort from the Saints was on target – virtually giving Kasper Schmeichel a day off.
In that view, Walcott may have proven to have been a more apt choice.