After an incredible 3-0 victory over Chelsea on the weekend, Arsene Wenger revealed the change he has witnessed in Theo Walcott as a player. The manager was all praise for Walcott’s development over the summer and hailed his determination to improve his career after a difficult period at both club and international level (via Arsenal.com).
Walcott missed out on Euro 2016 held earlier this summer when Roy Hodgson overlooked the winger after his lack of regular football in the last 14 games for Arsenal last season, making only a single appearance.
The striker, now 27, revealed his agitation to Wenger and Steve Bould over the downward spiral his career was heading towards and committed to changing things around. Walcott worked with his personal trainer Bradley Simmonds all summer to ensure he improves and Wenger noticed the change in the preseason.
It is due to the clear physical and mental improvement that the England international has been preferred to the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and ousted Joel Campbell from the club, he has since started all six Premier League games.
His performance against Chelsea was an explanation of Wenger’s preference of playing the forward regularly this season even when it appeared a questionable decision in the opening games of the season.
Speaking to the Arsenal.com, Wenger spoke about the difference in the balance Walcott has achieved between his offensive and defensive stance on the pitch.
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“[Theo] used to be 90 per cent forward and 10 per cent defending – today he does it 50-50 and does the job in both ways with commitment,” said Wenger.
“I always felt there was character in this boy, and intelligence. It was a big blow to him not to go to the Euros.
“I spoke with him about the disappointment of not going with England. Theo Walcott is a special case; at 16 he went with England to the World Cup in 2006 – now we are 2016 and he has still not played at a World Cup.
“He has matured and, when a player survives these disappointments after what you have promised at 16 and the way he dealt with the situations, I always thought there was something special in this guy.”
Walcott’s goal against the Blues was his third in the six games of the Premier League and his performance over the weekend was his best of the season so far. It is hoped Wenger hasn’t praised him too soon and there is a lot more to come from Walcott this season.