Champions League

Walcott revival gives Arsenal a Euro boost

2016-09-27 12:36
Theo Walcott and Arsene Wenger (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Out of favour with Arsenal and exiled by England, Theo Walcott reached a crossroads at the end of last season and his emphatic response looks to have saved a career in danger of imploding.

Walcott started only one of Arsenal's final 14 matches last term and lost his place in Roy Hodgson's England squad at the end of a miserable campaign that appeared to shatter the winger's dreams of ever cementing himself as a key figure for club or country.

Now, just months later, ahead of Wednesday's Champions League group fixture against Swiss side Basel, he has reestablished himself as one of Arsenal's main men thanks to a desperate close-season bid for redemption.

At 27, Walcott should have been in his prime, but somehow it seemed appropriate that a player with electric pace but a frustrating habit of failing to deliver the telling cross or clinical finish, now found himself firmly on the periphery after a career that once promised to make him a global star.

Faced with the possibility of being sold by Arsenal and forgotten by England, Walcott decided on a summit meeting that laid the foundations for his recent renaissance.

He sat down with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger and his lieutenant Steve Bould to work out how to get back on track and the advice he received was simple and to the point -- get tougher physically and mentally.

Walcott took the talk to heart and worked with a personal trainer throughout the close-season in a bid to significantly improve his fitness and strength, even working on many of his days off to stay ahead of schedule.

Those gruelling sessions through the dog days of summer, when he could have been sunning himself in Miami, Dubai or any other millionaires' playground frequented by his peers, underlined to both Walcott and Wenger that his commitment to excellence remained strong.

FINE-TUNED BODY

The transformative affect on Walcott's psyche was clear to see as soon as Arsenal's players returned for pre-season training.

He was once again the vibrant presence that burst onto the Premier League stage after joining Arsenal from Southampton as a teenager.

Out-shining many of his team-mates thanks to his fine-tuned body and renewed desire to prove himself, Walcott was back in Wenger's good books and back in the team for the season-opener against Liverpool.

Walcott hasn't looked back since, starting all six Premier League matches and playing the full 90 minutes four times after frequently being substituted due to his slumping fitness levels in the past.

Crucially, Walcott finally seems to have come to terms with Wenger's preference to play him as a right winger rather than a striker.

For years, Walcott pined for a central role in Wenger's attack, but whenever he played there both Arsenal and the wannabe forward underwhelmed.

The difference in Walcott this season was never clearer than in Saturday's Premier League clash against Chelsea.

In a fixture that had developed into a psychological nightmare for Arsenal after years of losing to their London rivals, Walcott led the charge as Wenger's side won 3-0.

Walcott proved a constant menace for the Chelsea defence and swept home the second goal before earning cheers for a rare tackle in defence to deny Eden Hazard.

It was a performance that confirmed Walcott's return to prominence and prompted Wenger to pay tribute to the winger's resurgence.

"I always felt there is character and intelligence in this boy," Wenger said.

"What was a big blow for him was not to go to the Euros. He is a guy with a good assessment of his performances and qualities.

"He is 27, a very important age. I said many times at the start of the season that we would see a different Theo Walcott. I could see he made a decision and stuck to it."

NEXT ON SPORT24X

What To Read Next

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Fixtures
Tuesday, 02 October 2018
Juventus v Young Boys, Allianz Stadium 18:55
Hoffenheim v Manchester City, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 18:55
Bayern Munchen v Ajax, Allianz-Arena 21:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Shakhtar Donetsk, Groupama OL Academy Decines-Charpieu 21:00
Manchester United v Valencia, Old Trafford 21:00
AEK Athens v Benfica, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 21:00
Roma v Viktoria Plzen, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
CSKA Moskva v Real Madrid, VEB Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 03 October 2018
PSG v Crvena Zvezda, Parc des Princes 18:55
Lokomotiv Moskva v Schalke 04, RZD Arena 18:55
Porto v Galatasaray, Estadio Do Dragao 21:00
Atletico Madrid v Club Brugge, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 21:00
PSV v Internazionale, Philips Stadion 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Monaco, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Napoli v Liverpool, Stadio San Paolo 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Barcelona, Wembley Stadium 21:00
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
AEK Athens v Bayern Munchen, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 18:55
Young Boys v Valencia, STADE DE SUISSE Wankdorf Bern 18:55
Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:00
Ajax v Benfica, Johan Cruijff ArenA 21:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:00
Manchester United v Juventus, Old Trafford 21:00
Roma v CSKA Moskva, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
Hoffenheim v Olympique Lyonnais, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Club Brugge v Monaco, Jan Breydelstadion 18:55
PSV v Tottenham Hotspur, Philips Stadion 18:55
Liverpool v Crvena Zvezda, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Internazionale, Camp Nou 21:00
PSG v Napoli, Parc des Princes 21:00
Lokomotiv Moskva v Porto, RZD Arena 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Atletico Madrid, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Galatasaray v Schalke 04, Turk Telekom Stadyumu 21:00
Tuesday, 06 November 2018
Monaco v Club Brugge, Stade Louis II 19:55
Crvena Zvezda v Liverpool, Stadion Rajko Mitic 19:55
Porto v Lokomotiv Moskva, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Internazionale v Barcelona, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza 22:00
Napoli v PSG, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Schalke 04 v Galatasaray, Veltins-Arena 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v PSV, Wembley Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 07 November 2018
Valencia v Young Boys, Estadio de Mestalla 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Roma, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Manchester United, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v AEK Athens, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid, Doosan Arena 22:00
Benfica v Ajax, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Hoffenheim, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Logs
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team
Vote

Which English Premier League club will progress furthest in this season's Champions League?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.