Arsenal can really challenge now Alexis Sanchez is scoring again, says Walcott
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Theo Walcott insists it was never in doubt that Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez would rediscover his form in front of goal.
The Gunners forward banged in 25 goals during his first year at the club after a £30m move from Barcelona, but had failed to find the net in eight appearances this season.
However, Sanchez got off the mark in style with a hat-trick at Leicester on Saturday as the visitors leapfrogged their hosts to climb into the top four.
And Walcott – who was also on target in Arsenal’s 5-2 victory at the King Power Stadium – says the Chilean star was not in the least disconcerted by his barren run prior to Saturday’s treble.
“He always works hard for the team,” said Walcott. “If he doesn’t score, he’s always tracking back, and he always wants the ball. He doesn’t shy away and that’s important for us.
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“When you come into the Premier League for your first season and score that number of goals, there’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders straight away, and there’s a lot of expectation because of the fee.
“But he’s not fazed by anything – he doesn’t put pressure on himself and he’s a very chilled, relaxed man who always plays with a smile on his face.
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“That’s what you want in the dressing-room, players who enjoy playing football. Even when he’s not scoring, he’s happy for the team to do well and that’s the sign of a great team player.
“The goals have always been there – it was just a matter of time and now I’m sure he’s going to flourish. Now he’s scoring goals, we’re going to be even more of a threat, without a doubt.”
Walcott, who was selected ahead of Olivier Giroud in the central striker’s role for the fourth time in six games, has been in decent goalscoring form himself.
The 26-year-old fired the Gunners level at Leicester with his third goal in five appearances before Sanchez took centre stage – and Giroud came on to wrap up proceedings with the fifth goal late on.
But Walcott, who also netted a double in England’s recent 6-0 thrashing of San Marino, knows he will need to keep finding the net on a regular basis to retain that starting role at Arsenal.
“I’ve been waiting for my opportunity,” he added. “I’ve said I wanted to play up front for a while now, I can play on either of the flanks as well and it’s a good option for the manager to have, to be honest.
“If I continue to play well, hopefully I can stay there, but I do need to contribute. When given the opportunity, every player needs to try and make a difference.
“We’ve got such great players who can change a game any minute. I’ve been here a long time and it’s the best group I’ve ever worked with.
“Getting consistent is the key and it’s important for us to keep the squad fit. You could see in midweek [against Tottenham], we had a completely different team but that shows the strength in depth we have.”
Leicester, who went into Saturday’s game as the only unbeaten team in the Premier League, looked set to continue that record after enjoying the better of the opening exchanges.
Jamie Vardy gave the Foxes an early lead and might well have added two more goals before Walcott’s equaliser, somewhat against the run of play, turned the contest in Arsenal’s favour.
“It could have been something like 12-8, it was that sort of game,” Walcott reflected. “You can just see from the way Leicester play they’re going to cause a lot of upsets and they already have.
“But I think their goal actually woke us up a bit – they hit the post and bar and scored, so we had to get that crucial next goal.”