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Updated: March 9, 2010 15:00 IST

Walcott to concentrate on Arsenal

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A file photo of Theo Walcott.
AP A file photo of Theo Walcott.

Arsenal may lie within striking distance in the Premier League title race, and they may be one game away from the Champions League quarter-finals, but in many ways this has been a season of disappointment for them.

There have been question marks over the goalkeeper, injury has robbed them of a proven centre-forward, there have been the usual questions about the centre of defence, and even Theo Walcott, for so long the young darling of the Emirates, has had a poor season.

That Arsenal are still in contention is partly down to the brilliance of Cesc Fabregas and testament to their resilience of spirit — something they are often said to lack — and there are signs of players coming into form at just the right time.

Walcott experienced both extremes last week. For England against Egypt, he was all but anonymous, and when Shaun Wright-Phillips changed the game after replacing him, his World Cup place — which seemed secure after his hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Croatia in qualifying — suddenly seemed in doubt.

But on Saturday, Walcott was exceptional, albeit against Burnley who have the worst away record in the Premier League.

Time and again he found space on the right and sent in crosses, and had Nicklas Bendtner not had a shocker in front of goal, Arsenal would have won by a far more comfortable margin than the 3-1 they eventually managed.

As he pointed out, though, it has taken him time to get over a series of injuries, and he now feels his form is returning, which is great news for England manager Fabio Capello as he ponders his squad for the World Cup.

“This has been the most frustrating season I have had in my career with the amount of injuries I have had,” Walcott said.

“The last six or seven matches have been the pre-season for me, and now I feel as sharp as ever, and hopefully against Burnley I showed a few people what I can do.” That is a start, but if Walcott is to secure his place in the squad for South Africa, he needs to start turning it on against stronger opponents, such as Porto, who lead Arsenal 2-1 from the first leg in Portugal.

“For me, I just want to concentrate on playing for Arsenal, and with the performances, England will come.

“Now I will focus on Tuesday’s match and see if I can put in a similar performance.” If he can, it will be England fans as much as Arsenal fans who are cheering.

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