Theo Walcott may have turned his career around with his part in Arsenal’s thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur.
The England winger was suffering from probably his worst crisis of form up to that point and it was compounded by an Emirates Stadium crowd who were growing impatient with their team’s poor displays.
Two-goals down in that game, Walcott seemed even unable to control the ball properly and was blasted at every turn by the home fans.
It was not looking good for the supposed boy-wonder from Southampton who had gone to a World Cup without ever having made a Premier League appearance and just 17 years old.
He would have only a year left on his Arsenal deal and there were rumours the Gunners were considering on cutting him loose due to his continual failure to consistently produce the goods.
The 23-year-old replied to this pressure by scoring he fourth and fifth goals in the comeback by Arsene Wenger’s side, both cool finishes.
Since then he has been instrumental in Arsenal going on a run that has seen them win nine of ten games and go five points clear into third above Spurs – an astonishing achievement considering the fact they faced the reality of going 13 points behind them when 2-0 down after 34 minutes.
The mood has changed in discussions surrounding Walcott now and people are expecting him to sign a new deal once the season finishes and many feel as though he is now ready to push on.
Caution is important, however, as it would not be the first time he has been ratified as come of age, only for it to be labelled a false dawn when he hit another rut of bad form.
The same was being said about him at the beginning of last season when he went on a good run of scoring but he once again fell prey to the profligacy and tentativeness that so infuriates spectators.
In Walcott’s latest comments he has claimed to be playing without fear for the first time and believes he is finally beginning to grow into himself, the justification for which he says is the fact he has been injured less.
There may be something in that claim, because it is fair to say that the appearance of progress in the past was halted somewhat by niggling complaints, though he always had a fair run of games to try and regain his form.
The biggest problem for Walcott has always been between his ears, as you could see glimpses of what he can do but he is also so capable of such indecisiveness and poor decision-making.
It is good for England that Walcott is feeling as confident as he as ever done going into a major tournament and there must surely be no more debate as to whether he will go or not.
The inconsistency is still there for him though and it was exemplified by Arsenal’s victory over Wolves on Wednesday; he was electrifying early on in the game, earning a penalty and scoring the second.
The rest of the match however, was littered with bad touches, failed dribbles and poor crosses – though this can be tempered by the fact that the whole team went off the boil to some degree after the early goals and red card effectively ended the match as a contest.
In an interview with the club’s website, after bemoaning his injury record, Walcott said:
“Now I am just going into games and enjoying myself, not being scared of anything. The manager always tells me not to be afraid going into tackles.
“I am a totally different Theo Walcott now.”
Whether this really is a different and new Walcott remains to be seen; Arsenal fans will just be praying it isn’t more of the same.
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