LONDON, March 17 – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger marked the 20th birthday of Theo Walcott by predicting there was still more to come from the Gunners forward.
The former Southampton starlet returned to the Arsenal first team last weekend after a spell on the sidelines through injury and looked sharp as the London club put four goals past Premier League rivals Blackburn Rovers.
Thrust into the spotlight by then England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson’s shock decision to select him for the 2006 World Cup squad, Walcott has learned to live with high expectations.
A shoulder injury after a fine start to the season was a setback but now a fit Walcott is set to help in their bid to reach the last four of the FA Cup against Hull at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
Wenger, speaking about Walcott’s return to action, said: "He made a very good start and he became stronger and stronger.
"He gives us something that is important as well when we play home. He goes behind the defenders and creates room and he has a direct game. We need that, especially at home.
"It is important to have him back and he gives you something that can make a difference in any game," the Frenchman added.
"Compared to one year ago there is no comparison, that is what people sometimes have problems to accept. At that age, every three months you go higher up but how much, you can never predict.
"But there is still a lot more to come from Theo."
Also making an impact at Arsenal is Russia’s Andrei Arshavin who helped create two of the Gunners’ goals against Rovers and also scored with a superb solo effort.
Signed from Zenit St Petersburg in January, Arshavin is ineligible for Arsenal’s Champions League quarter-final but could yet become a key figure in their bid for both the FA Cup and a fourth-place finish in the Premier League.
"Arshavin cannot play in Europe but he had a good game against Blackburn and it will be good to have him for the cup games," said Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna.
"I think he was outstanding at the weekend, he scored a great goal, it came naturally and I think he was very happy about it," the full-back added.
"Every time he plays he is good and he can play on the right, on the left and up front as well. He has shown he can score now and he is an important player who can do well in this team.
"He can play like that, pass the ball and arrive in different positions. He showed all of that (against Blackburn) and also his power. He is not very tall but he knows how to deal with that."