It is over a week now since Arsenal forward Theo Walcott made his return to action. The England international had been out with a cruciate knee ligament injury since January. But last Friday he featured for the Arsenal under-21s against their Blackburn Rovers counterparts and has been taking part in full training since.
While he seems unlikely to play against Sunderland this afternoon it looks as though he is edging closer and closer to a first-team return, with Arsene Wenger telling his weekly press conference yesterday:
“I am not sure to involve him tomorrow. Certainly next week.
“He has to get used to contact again. He has been out for nine months, it was a big injury and it takes time to settle, to get used to being kicked again.
“He has a game that exposes him and he needs to feel completely confident. But he is not far. I think fitness wise he is there, to play a part in the game on the contact front I think he needs a little bit more time."
And his return will be timely for the Arsenal fans and staff.
Because there is no doubt they miss him.
It is sometimes hard to see just how exactly Walcott is missed. His pace is an obvious weapon. Not enough of the current Arsenal batch run beyond the play, Walcott brings that to the team.
It is therefore no surprise to see how much better Arsenal perform with Walcott, compared to without.
According to The Mirror the statistics do not lie - with Walcott Arsenal's win percentage was 69.2 per cent; without him it is 46.2 per cent. That represents a 23 per cent drop off since Walcott suffered his knee injury.
There can be no doubt, the sooner Walcott is back in full action, the better for Arsenal.