Theo Walcott return can turn Arsenal's season around

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The sight of Arsenal struggling to contain the constant threat of Belgium champions Anderlecht was enough to turn even the most optimistic Gunner into a cynical, Wenger-out, defeatist.

They say there are no easy games in the Champions League, but they rarely come easier than a trip to the 28,000-seater Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. Eventually, Arsenal came through to win, scoring two goals in the final minutes to steal the three points.

It was a lucky victory; a once in a blue moon type of victory and it did little to raise the mood amongst the Arsenal faithful. There are serious concerns over why Arsenal could not break Anderlecht down until the 89th minute.

Different dynamic

A recurring suggestion on both Twitter and in the commentary box was that Arsenal needed something different. Something that could open up the game in a second and turn it around before anyone knew what had happened. What they needed was Theo Walcott.

The signing of Alexis Sanchez has defused the need to get Walcott back to fitness has soon as possible. Having originally been ruled out for around six months, the lack of pressure to make a return has hopefully allowed to regain his full strength.

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"He needs to feel completely confident but he is not far. Fitness-wise he is there. Contact front he needs a bit more time"

Had Sanchez not been available for what is now a crucial trip to Sunderland on Saturday, it is likely that Arsene Wenger would not have had the luxury of ruling Walcott out of the game.

"He has to get used to contact again," Wenger told reporters. "He has been out nine months, he needs to get used to being kicked again.

"He needs to feel completely confident but he is not far. Fitness-wise he is there. Contact front he needs a bit more time."

Timely return

But while the fans may not be crying out for the £100,000-a-week star to return to the squad, instead wishing for a miracle cure for Laurent Koscielny's chronic Achilles problems, there is growing sense that Arsenal need a Plan B.

The Gunners needed it in Belgium and they will need it again this season. Imagine this: Sunderland a leading 1-0 and its the 89th minutes. Per Mertesacker thumps the ball clear and it's a battle of pace between Wes Brown and Santi Cazorla. Brown wins the race and clears the ball. Now imagine it's Walcott versus Brown. Who wins then?

The threat

Walcott does not just provide an outlet with his pace but he also changes the way opposing teams defend. They need to put their quickest player on Walcott and they need to drop deeper to prevent that inevitable ball over the top.

It is not just the threat of Walcott that benefits Arsenal but the idea of him. Opposing teams fear his pace above all. They try to cater for it and, sometimes, they succeed but only at the expense of their original game plan.

Walcott won't waltz back into this Arsenal team, but should be reintegrated slowly from the substitutes bench. In many ways that is Walcott's perfect role. On the bench he provides hope to fans and players that he can come on and change the if indeed it needs changing.

He may not be on the bench against the Black Cats and that may come to Wenger's detriment. It is time for Walcott to provide that pace up front once again. Burnley will be hoping Wenger decides to rest him another week, because no team in the Premier League wants to be the one to welcome Walcott back.

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Theo Walcott

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