This has been the kind of beginning to a season Arsenal and England fans have been expecting for a long time – Theo Walcott scoring goals.
Since his much-publicised move from Southampton to Arsenal in 2006, Theo has been burdened with the hope and expectation of a nation of football fans, who want to taste success on a global scale after such a long time.
This kind of expectation, obviously, brings with it levels of extra pressure in an already high pressure environment. We were told in 2006 that Theo Walcott is going to be the ‘next big thing’ in English football, with his blistering pace and penchant for attacking, and that he and Wayne Rooney were going to run away with all international honours (really fast too) and England will be great again.
To be fair to the hounds of hyperbole, they didn’t specify exactly when this was going to happen but predictions without time restraints can’t be taken too seriously.
The pressure and high profile nature of Walcott’s career progression was compounded by Arsenal fans reading many similar predictions of greatness and then becoming frustrated when Theo wasn’t scoring in every game or tearing teams apart with his eyes closed.
These were innocent frustrations however – fans can be excused for their sighs over a misplaced pass or missed scoring opportunity when in possibly the same game Walcott had sped past two defenders and fizzed a devilish ball across goal. They want the best but no trophy since 2005 gets people feeling itchy for something special.
One thing we – a football audience as a whole – do not have nowadays is patience. This could be due to our 24 hour news addiction or maybe something else, but that discussion is for another time. One person who does have patience is Arsene Wenger and he has constantly reassured us that Theo will come good and all he needs is time.
Remember, Walcott is only 21-years-old and it was not long ago that this was quite a young age for a footballer and you couldn’t expect too much from him.
It seems good things are coming to those who wait this season. Walcott suffered heartbreak in the summer after being overlooked for England’s World Cup squad – in a similar situation to his team mate Samir Nasri – but used the disappointment to spur himself to greater heights. Just as Nasri has done himself.
Wenger has always intimated that a Walcott free from injury and with a good pre-season behind him would deliver in large amounts. This was happening up until an unfortunate injury picked up while playing for England and there were murmurs from spectators about Walcott being injury prone and signs of progress, once again, being stunted by another knock.
This time has been different though; Theo has picked up from where he left off and has continued to score goals and trouble defences since returning from injury.
Wenger has been so impressed that he has gone so far as to state Walcott could be the next Henry-type forward for Arsenal and could eventually lead the line. Walcott responded with an Henry-style strike against Shakhtar.
This automatically brings up questions about Arsenal’s system and what Robin Van Persie, amongst others, would think of that. However, these are all questions for the manager and are affected by many different factors and variables, which could change at any moment.
One thing is for certain though – Walcott is going about his business on the football pitch with a new found air of assurance and he is reaping the rewards for this. With seven goals in eight matches this season for Arsenal, it looks like the Theo Walcott we were all told about has arrived.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.