2014 has been a bit of a nightmare for Theo Walcott. The flying winger suffered an unfortunate knee injury during the momentous FA Cup win over Tottenham way back in January, and has since missed the Gunners’ successful top four finish and England’s World Cup journey to Brazil.
It’s been a long and rocky road for the 25-year-old, but the weekend win at home to Burnley marked the light at the end of the tunnel for Walcott, who came on for the last 10 minutes in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Despite nine months of rehabilitation, the former Southampton youngster was impressive in his brief cameo, forcing a good save from Clarets stopper Tom Heaton, hinting that none of the zip and flair has disappeared. Arsene Wenger has since said that the speedster is not yet at the end of his road to recovery, but the signs look good.
Coming back with Arsenal really beginning to kick into gear this season means that Walcott has the potential to drive the Londoners on to the next level. There’s no doubt that his pace has been missed at the Emirates Stadium – after all, any team would love to have the Three Lions star’s straight line speed – so with the extra injection of horsepower, Wenger will have another tool at his disposal.
It’s not just the Frenchman who will be thrilled by the return of Walcott, with Jack Wilshere having revealed a few weeks ago just how excited he, and his team-mates, is with the prospect of playing alongside the wide-man once again:
“I’ve never played with someone before who times their runs so perfectly and keeps doing it, time after time. It’s tough in a game to repeat those sprints 15 or 20 times but he does it, and it’s a dream for a midfielder.
“He gives us something different – he gives us pace. I know we’ve got Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who gives us pace but Theo gives you something different without the ball.
“He’s got physically stronger and he looks quicker than he did before – that might seem impossible but he does. He’s done a lot of work on his quads and his power so he’s going to come back fine.”
Pretty positive then. And it’s east to see why, with Walcott’s versatility and dynamism a timely boost as the season enters its crunch period. Now the yellow match day ball is back, winter is officially here, and the festive period means one thing in English football… hectic fixture lists. The cold dark nights in north London will be pierced by the floodlights from the Emirates, which will be the venue for a few encounters for Wenger and his team.
Rotating his squad will be key for the Gunners’ manager to maintain European and domestic aspirations, so having a player of the Englishman’s ability and adaptability is a massive boost. Able to play from either flank or as a striker, Walcott will provide cover and completion for a host of stars, and allow his boss to present opponents with new threats on a weekly basis.
With one of the strongest squads they’ve had for some time and one of the greatest managers in English football’s history, things really are looking rosy for Arsenal. And with a player of Walcott’s talents now back in the fold, the season looks set to get the real jump-start needed for success.
Another FA Cup triumph? League glory? European achievement? Who knows, but the Gunners’ 2014/15 looks likely to get better and better in the coming months.