Arsenal took most of the soccer world by surprise on Sunday by dismantling rivals Manchester United 3-0 at the Emirates. The north London outfit was the better side from start to finish, but it was Arsenal’s first half display that set to the two clubs apart. Superstars Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil ran the show for the Gunners, the dynamic duo scoring all three of their team’s goals within the first 20 minutes of the game (Alexis with two).
While the Alexis-Özil tandem dominated the Manchester United defense, the unsung hero of the match was center forward Theo Walcott. Walcott, who has been deployed on the right flank for the majority of his career, played arguably his best match of the season in his relatively new position despite not hitting the back of the net.
The England international did, however, provide two assists. Not only did Walcott keep his head up and was aware of his teammates around him, but the 26-year-old completed 83% of his passes, made outstanding runs off of the ball and tracked back to make two impressive interceptions in the middle of the pitch, as well.
Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was full of praise for his former teammate following the massive match. “What I like about this (game) is that he wasn’t selfish,” Henry said>. “He was very good today, he had a very good game. He didn’t score, but he was a threat. He was holding the ball, desire, two assists, and the crowd loved it.”
When asked whether or not Walcott should now be the number one choice for the center forward position, Henry stated, “With what he has done today and the way he has been answering the call recently, and if he can play like that every single weekend, he has to start.”
Walcott has now featured in the center forward position nine total times this season, but it is what the player has done over his last six appearances in the role that has caught the attention of many. The speedster has scored four goals and added three assists during this stretch, despite only averaging 72 minutes per match (435 total minutes on the pitch in the six matches).
Now the longest serving Gunner in the squad, Walcott has always been a thorn in the side of opposing teams. Barcelona superstar Leo Messi even once claimed that the Spanish club was “scared” of the Arsenal player. “I can only speak from experience but (Walcott) was one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against,” Messi asserted. “Barcelona players are not scared easily but I can tell you that when we played Arsenal last season he truly worried us.”
From his mesmerizing run< and assist against Liverpool in the 2007-08 Champions League quarterfinals, to the stunning hat-trick away to Newcastle in Dec. 2012, to his recent success against Manchester United, Walcott has matured into an extremely viable striker. The forward’s play has certainly helped ease the pain of the club failing to bring in a top center forward during the summer transfer window.
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