He's been saying it for years and now Walcott's proving that he really is a middle man
23:37 GMT, 30 December 2012
If Theo Walcott needs reminding of what being Arsenal's No 1 centre forward entails, he will get it at training this morning.
Thierry Henry will be there. The way Walcott opened his body up before sliding the ball past Tim Krul for the first of his three goals in Saturday's 7-3 demolition of Newcastle had Henry's influence written all over it.
However, it also displayed the hallmarks of a clinical Premier League striker, something Walcott wants to become so desperately.
Expertly done: Theo Walcott showed his ability to play in the middle for Arsenal
Sign him up: Arsene Wenger is hoping Walcott will commit his future to Arsenal
Having the luxury of working with
Henry each day will only enhance the 23-year-old's efforts to complete
the transition from pacy winger to world-class centre forward.
Who better to learn from than
arguably the best goalscorer the club have ever had Saturday's
brilliant display against Newcastle will help convince his doubters that
he can develop into an out-and-out centre forward.
But, truth be told, the man he
really needs to convince still needs persuading. Wenger has put a centre
forward at the top of his shopping list.
David Villa, Adrian Lopez and Edin
Dzeko are targets. Should any of that trio arrive at the Emirates next
month, then Walcott could be shifted back out wide.
'I've always said I'm a striker and the manager is giving me the opportunity to play up front,' said Walcott.
'I'm not saying I'll play up front all the time, but it's just nice to have a different option.
'Olivier (Giroud) came off the bench
and showed great qualities. I switched to the right so it can work. We
are scoring goals from every position. I believe I am a striker.'
Walcott is finally adding substance to those claims, a fact underlined by Saturday's breathtaking performance.
His first against Alan Pardew's side
displayed all the precision of a top-class goalscorer as he expertly
side-footed his effort past Krul.
The England man's second demonstrated
all the instinctiveness of a quality finisher, ramming home from 12
yards under pressure from Gael Bigirimana.
Main man: Walcott was in exceptional form against Newcastle
It must be love: The Arsenal manager was impressed with Walcott's performance against Newcastle
10 GAMES, 10 GOALS
Theo Walcott's recent form means Arsene Wenger must be seriously considering handing him the main striker's role on a permanent basis.
In his last 10 matches, Walcott has scored hat-tricks against Reading and Newcastle and goals against Schalke, Tottenham, Everton and Reading.
When Walcott has scored this season, Arsenal have not lost.
And his third showed the
single-mindedness of a seasoned centre forward, picking himself up off
the floor to curl a shot past Krul to complete his hat-trick.
Walcott is silencing his doubters;
those who have questioned his credentials as a central striker are being
forced into a rethink.
Yes, he has to do it on a regular
basis, but 14 goals from 11 starts this season provides a clear
indication that his long-term future can be as a bona fide middle man.
Whether that is at Arsenal remains to
be seen, but it is to Walcott's credit he has managed that exceptional
goal ratio with uncertainty looming large.
'Even with the speculation going on,
he's stuck to his task. He's been a great professional ,' said
team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
'He's a good lad in the dressing room
and we need him to keep doing that for the rest of the season. We've
all been giving him a bit of banter (about his future) but that's for
Theo's people to sort out.'
Saturday's hammering of Newcastle was
Walcott's third successive outing in his preferred position, a period
in which he has scored four times.
Duel: Walcott got the better of Tim Krul on a number of occasions
Options: Wenger also likes to pick Olivier Giroud (right) through the middle
However, his contribution has not
stopped at goals. Walcott set up both of Giroud's strikes against
Newcastle and won the decisive penalty in the 1-0 victory over Wigan
last week. Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie at Swansea is likely to see
Walcott given another chance to nail down the role.
'He bangs them in for fun in
training,' added Oxlade-Chamberlain. 'Someone with pace is a nightmare
to defend against. When he gets the service, he can punish teams. In
training, he's no different.
'When Theo first came, he was
training with players like Thierry, (Dennis) Bergkamp and (Robert)
Pires. He's learned from the best, he's getting better and better, and
there's no one better to learn from.
'From the player that I first
started watching to the man he is now, he is only getting better and
better and he's still only 23.
'He's got such a mature head on his
shoulders. He's great on and off the pitch so he's so important for us.
He was great for me when I first arrived. He took me under his wing,
helped me. 'When he came along, it must have been even more daunting
because I think Ashley Cole was the only English player around at the
'They had experienced players like
Henry and Bergkamp. It must have been daunting so he realised it must
have been hard for me coming in. So he helped me through that.
'He was the first person to really
help me. 'I sit next to him in the dressing room and he's been really
good for me.' Walcott is really good for Arsenal at the moment, too.