Almunia backs angry Walcott to shine

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The new "furious" Theo Walcott is now a major player for both Arsenal and England, according to Gunners goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Following a string of impressive displays for Arsene Wenger's men, the 19-year-old netted a stunning hat-trick for Fabio Capello's senior team in their World Cup qualifier in Croatia last month.

Almunia said: "Theo was too nice maybe in the last two years, but this season you can see that when he gets tackled he gets furious, and that shows you he has changed."

The pacey young forward has again been included for the forthcoming clashes with Kazakhstan at Wembley and next week's away game in Belarus.

It has certainly been a rollercoaster ride for the former Southampton trainee, who arrived at Arsenal in a big-money move in January 2006 and was a controversial selection for Sven-Goran Eriksson's ill-fated World Cup squad that year, when he had yet to make his debut for the Gunners.

However, Walcott has certainly toughened up since, recently coming in for some close attention from Dynamo Kiev captain Andriy Nesmachniy during the Champions League opener in the Ukraine.

It is, though, just that ability to cope with whatever the opposition throw at him which Almunia believes makes Walcott a special talent.

"When he used to take a tackle he did not reply with anything, he did not say anything to the referee or the opposing player. He would get tackled and stay on the floor, and he would never say anything. Now I like him more on the field.

"I try to help everybody who comes to me and Theo is very nice. Sometimes he likes to speak to more experienced players, older players like me.

"I just spoke with him once, I told him he had to be a bit more aggressive and not so nice on the pitch because if people can kill you they will do so."

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Premier League
Manuel Almunia
Theo Walcott

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