Theo Walcott’s rise to form may have come as a surprise to many, but the telltale signs were already there.
Theo Walcott has bagged two goals against Basel to take his account for the season to five. Last season he was a much maligned figure amongst fans, with many wishing that Arsene Wenger would finally cut the loose piece of tether that was keeping the former Southampton prodigy at the club.
So often flattering to deceive, it was deemed that the time was finally up for Walcott after once again failing to register more than five league goals in a season.
The England international has started this season in sparkling form, and looks every bit the player who lit up the Emirates before he snapped his anterior cruciate ligament in January 2014.
Take a look at five of Theo Walcott’s best games in an Arsenal jersey.
29th December 2012 – Arsenal 7-3 Newcastle
Ever since Theo Walcott bounced into Highbury as a sprightly teenager, there was never any doubting who he most looked up to in the Arsenal ranks. From his adoption of the number 14 jersey, straight down to the copycat hairstyle, Thierry Henry might have been flattered by Walcott’s apparent homage.
The former Southampton striker has claimed to have modelled his game on the club’s record goalscorer and has always backed himself to make the seamless transition to centre-forward from his customary wing position.
If ever there was an opportunity for Walcott to stake his claim it was the 12/13 season, when Robin van Persie’s void was keenly felt. The England international was selected up front in a number of games and repaid Arsene Wenger’s faith with 21 goals.
His hat-trick against Newcastle in a 10-goal thriller, which included a wonderfully improvised dink over Tim Krul after he had collected himself from the floor.
30th October 2012 – Reading 5-7 Arsenal
It was the stuff of nightmares for Arsenal when they found themselves 4-0 down against Reading at half-time in a League Cup showdown.
The struggling Premier League outfit had stunned the Gunners in a first-half blitz but Arsene Wenger’s side would rally to deliver one of the most extraordinary comebacks ever seen in English football.
Walcott proved the hero, bagging three which included a last-gasp equaliser. His pace terrorised a panicky Royals back line who couldn’t cope with the Gunners’ resurgence and his ruthlessness paid dividends.
26th February 2012 – Arsenal 5-2 Spurs
Spurs were probably sick to the sight of the Emirates at the end of 2012 after losing by the same scoreline twice in the same year, but it was their first defeat which will rankle more having led 2-0 at one stage.
After goals from Bacary Sagna, Robin van Persie and Tomas Rosicky put the hosts in the ascendancy, Theo Walcott was allowed the freedom to kill off the North London rivals with a quick fire brace.
His composed finishes sealed the three points for the Gunners and drew jubilant scenes from what had been a tense home support an hour earlier.
21st August 2010 – Arsenal 6-0 Blackpool
While newly-promoted Blackpool were not a test of the Gunners’ title ambitions, it still allowed them to demonstrate their finishing capabilities and ruthlessness in front of goal.
The 21-year-old Walcott in particular, who had been criticised for much of his Arsenal career for not contributing enough goals, silenced critics for an afternoon as he smashed home the first treble of his career.
The England international, a surprise omission from Fabio Capello’s 2010 World Cup squad, coolly finished after 12 minutes, drilled home from Jack Wilshere’s pass before half-time and completed the hat-trick on 58 minutes with a smart left-footed strike.
24th February 2007 – Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Arsenal may have lost the Carling Cup final in 2007, but in many ways it was the birth of Theo Walcott. The young man had arrived at the club with big expectations when he had signed at the age of 16 the previous year, and the hype machine was dialled up a notch when he was bizarrely included in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s World Cup squad.
After 13 months at the club, Walcott was yet to open his goalscoring account for the Gunners but managed to do just that at the Millenium Stadium against London rivals Chelsea. Collecting a pass from Abou Diaby in the box, Walcott swivelled and side-footed the ball past Petr Cech and into the back of the net to send the travelling Arsenal support into raptures.
The 17-year-old would go on to terrorise the Chelsea defence for the rest of the day, but ultimately it was the might of Chelsea’s older and more experienced players who won out, with a double from Didier Drogba (of course).
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