Theo Walcott is a man reborn at Southampton and central to their top four surge… as the winger returns to the Emirates, he could be the most dangerous man on the pitch as he bids to heap misery on misfiring Arsenal
- Theo Walcott will return to former side Arsenal with Southampton on Wednesday
- The 31-year-old winger has been in excellent form since re-joining the Saints
- At 16-years-old he famously signed for the Gunners from the south coast side
- Walcott has proven integral to Southampton in an early hunt for the top four
- Meanwhile his former Gunners side are struggling down in 15th position
As Southampton prepare to take on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, there will be an fascinating curiosity – would Theo Walcott now get into the Gunners starting XI?
Walcott was effectively shown the door by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal in January 2018 as his first-team opportunities diminished under the Frenchman who had signed him as a 16-year-old wonderkid from the Saints back in 2006.
Such was his reputation that without even kicking a ball for Arsenal in the Premier League he was one of Sven Goran Eriksson’s shock inclusions for England’s World Cup squad in Germany later in the year… before being completely ignored for the whole tournament even when the Three Lions lost Michael Owen to injury.
Theo Walcott has found a new lease of life since returning to Southampton for this season
The 31-year-old is on loan from Everton and has become an important member of the side
The England reference is important because it provides a good snapshot of his career. World at his feet in 2006, destined for major honours and perhaps over 100 caps… yet he would never go to a World Cup again.
However it is unfair to say the winger’s career has been a waste of potential. He played at Euro 2012, achieved a highly respectable 47 caps with eight goals and scored one of the Three Lions’ finest hat-tricks when he tore up Croatia in a stunning 4-1 win during a World Cup qualifier in 2008.
With Arsenal he enjoyed plenty of runs in the first-team out wide and ended his time at the Emirates Stadium with three FA Cup wins and 108 goals from 397 appearances. There are many young footballers who offered that CV at the start of their career would certainly be happy to retire on that record.
Walcott broke onto the scene at the Saints in 2005 when they were in the Championship
In fewer than six months after his professional debut, Walcott sealed a move to Arsenal in 2006, seen above holding the Gunners shirt alongside manager Arsene Wenger after signing
HIs 2018 move to Everton though had a feeling of a player now on his way down after a largely successful spell at Arsenal, and this was at a time when the Gunners were also starting to slide down the Premier League’s pecking order.
While he didn’t flop at Goodison Park, neither did he show any sustained form as evidence to convince anyone that Wenger was wrong to move him on.
In fact, his name was soon missing on the team-sheet at the Merseyside club too.
The first seven games of this season he only once made the starting XI and that was in a League Cup tie against Salford. Sometimes he was lucky just to make the bench and he played just 12 minutes of top flight football before the Saints came calling.
Without even playing a game for Arsenal he was called up to England’s World Cup squad less than a year after his professional debut in a whirlwind start to his career
But Walcott’s progression levelled out and despite never playing at a World Cup, he enjoyed a solid international career including a stunning hat-trick away to Croatia in 2008 (above)
So another perceived step down the ladder followed, albeit one with emotional ties as he secured a loan move back to St Mary’s in October.
However, the 31-year-old’s stock has risen again during a highly promising first couple of months back at his first senior club and his form has arguably been his best for years.
Barring being ineligible to face his parent club Everton, he has started all seven Premier League games he has been available for, bagging two assists and scoring against Wolves.
He’s not just a shining talent in a poor team either. Southampton are flying in the Premier League inside the top four and could conceivably end the midweek round of fixtures joint top alongside Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.
Before falling out of favour and leaving Arsenal in 2018, Walcott enjoyed his time at the Emirates Stadium, winning the FA Cup three times (pictured above in 2017)
A frustrating spell at Everton soon followed, where he struggled for consistency before again he was overlooked for first-team opportunities
The old issues have cropped up, unaided by rustiness from lack of games for Everton, with his finishing still not quite fully up to scratch while his lack of positional awareness that prevented him from getting much of a chance to play a desired centre-forward role at Arsenal can still hinder him.
Yet his pace at 31 is still incredibly threatening and, along with his drive to take on defenders, is a key asset to the Saints attack under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
On early showings, the Saints boss will surely be looking towards making a permanent swoop for Walcott in the summer, if not January, such is the forward’s impressive impact in his second spell at the club.
Now a first team regular at Southampton, Walcott has rediscovered his spark, pictured above is his fist goal of the season in the 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers
He is now integral to Southampton and has bonded well with team-mates as they build a surprise challenge for a Champions League spot ahead of a trip to Arsenal on Wednesday
Meanwhile at Arsenal, down in 15th, there is a real struggle for a team whose only two goals in the Premier League over the past couple of months have come from a penalty kick and a short corner.
When Walcott returns to the Emirates on Wednesday, he could be the most dangerous player on the pitch and on current form would walk straight into the Arsenal team again. A remarkable contrast in fortunes in just short of three years.
Arsenal were not necessary wrong in allowing Walcott to leave in 2018, but in a move which was done to try and get the club back into the top four long term it says much about their demise that it is now Walcott who has a better chance of seeing elite football again.
He has settled at a club giving him first-team football, and is involved in an early battle for the top four… not one that casts an eye over the shoulder concerning relegation.
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article