Date: 20th January 2011 at 12:22pm
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As Walcott feinted to run in front of the defender and smartly turned behind him finding the space to meet van Persie’s cut back to take his goals tally for the season to 10 in scoring against West Ham at the weekend I wonder whether one particular Geordie commentating on the game saw that as the intelligent play it was?

Just ten months ago Theo was accused of not having a football brain by Chris Waddle adding to a band wagon that equally lazy pundits like Alan Hansen were already happy to jump on. Even premature debates on football forums questioned whether he would ever make it at Arsenal. It’s true that Walcott was having a tough time of it. His career has been a succession of incredible highs with explosive contributions for club and country and depressing lows where he has looked lost and one dimensional, but there was clearly something absurd about writing off a player at the time still short of his 21st birthday.

The summer’s rest, as his failure to make the England world cup squad seemed to be further pronouncement of his consignment to the medias scrapheap, has proved to be just what he needed. Just as Samir Nasri can count himself fortunate to have been passed up for his nations football ‘farce’stival so Theo should be happy to have missed England`s sorry adventure. In consequence he started this season much fitter and in great form scoring a hat trick against Blackpool before his national side rewarded him by getting him crocked in a pointless friendly that kept him out for a while.

Fortunately, that seems just to have been an interruption and he has continued to show not only greater physical strength but is timing his runs to much greater effect and seems to have learned how to turn his man when he isn’t able to run past them. We’ve seen him make 40 or 50 yard dashes before but he is using his pace and acceleration to make far more damaging sprints of 10 or 15 yards. To the extent that, possibly for the first time, I felt a pang of disappointment at seeing him substituted against Chelsea. Not only has he scored 10 times in 22 games but he seems set to reach double figures in assists too with 6 for the season so far.

It’s an improvement Arsene was moved to comment on at the weekend. ‘His efficiency has improved, if you look at the number of games he has started and the number of goals he has scored,’ he said.

‘He is efficient in providing and scoring and his understanding of the game has certainly, vastly improved.’

Theo will be 22 in a couple of months. He still has much to learn and there’ll be times when things don’t go for him but as he develops physically so he’ll continue to develop his footballing prowess. What is clear is that despite all the doubts we do seem to have a real player on our hands.

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