Lethal Walcott puts Blackpool to the sword

Lethal Walcott puts Blackpool to the sword

After the shock exclusion from Capello’s World Cup squad, many were left to wonder how Theo Walcott would respond. On this evidence alone, the answer is with the renewed energy of a young man who feels he has a point to prove.

At times on Saturday afternoon he left Blackpool’s defenders helplessly treading water as he powered past them on his way to a first hat trick in Arsenal colours. He’ll always have his detractors as Alan Hansen’s startlingly harsh criticism on Match of the Day showed, but maybe, just maybe, Walcott is beginning to grow up.

It wasn’t his goals that truly impressed though, it was the intelligence he showed in his decision making. If one moment hinted at the difference between this season’s Walcott and the one from just a few months ago it is this. Heading down a long diagonal into the path of Tomas Rosicky, the lightning-quick 21 year old continued his run outside the full back before receiving the return pass from the Czech Republic midfielder. Instead of trying to hit an area with the cross he looked up and delivered a fantastic pass to the onrushing Andrey Arshavin who could only see his effort saved.

It’s hard to imagine Walcott playing that same pass last season.

Wenger praised the Englishman’s ability to mix his decisions during the game, one minute bursting outside his full back and the next turning inside and committing defenders through the middle. Marouane Chamakh in particular will be disappointed not to have taken full advantage of two fantastic openings created by the flying winger.

Arguably his finishing was the least surprising part of Walcott’s display. He’s always been blessed with an instinctive ability in front of goal when given the chance, he simply doesn’t drift into central areas enough to profit from that. Perhaps this is the year that he does just that.

All maybe’s, if’s and possibly’s at this stage of the season but should he stay injury free there is no reason why this can’t be the season that he begins to reach his potential. There’ll be tougher tests to come of course, with hapless Blackpool struggling to keep close enough to Walcott even before they had a man sent off midway through the first half.

But if Arsenal and England fans needed a reminder of just why Theo Walcott can become a big part of both side’s fortunes then this was it.

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