Arsenal interview: Theo Walcott on Robin van Persie, his goals and the title race

Gunners striker reacts to Saturday’s 3-0 win at Upton Park

THEO Walcott believes that the return of Robin van Persie to the Arsenal line-up can give Arsenal the edge in the Premier League title race.

Van Persie’s double strike helped the Gunners see off West Ham on Saturday and close the gap on leaders Manchester United to just two points.

Walcott, Arsenal’s other goalscorer in the 3-0 win at Upton Park, feels that the return of the Dutchman, who spent most of 2010 sidelined with two different ankle injuries, could make all the difference between now and May.

“It’s very important for us to have Robin back,” said Walcott. “Having his presence up front, he’s great to play with up there, I love playing alongside him.

“He’s scoring goals and is back fit now which is good to see. He has had a good rest and is ready to go.

“We had so much strength on the bench as well – if you look on Saturday we had players like Bendtner, Arshavin and Chamakh to come on.

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“We have lots of different options and that’s the great thing with this Arsenal team at this moment in time.

“If it’s not going well for you, someone else on the bench can come on and that’s the whole point of a squad.

“We have a great squad and we are going to need it and all stay fit because I think it’s going to be a busy run to the end of the season now.”

Saturday’s win was certainly a huge improvement on the midweek visit a little further east, when the Gunners had been so poor in the 1-0 Carling Cup defeat to Ipswich.

Walcott admitted that Arsene Wenger had not pulled any punches in his assessment of that game to the players afterwards, and that the side had not done themselves justice in that game and the previous weekend’s 1-1 draw with Leeds.

“The last two matches we weren’t right mentally,” revealed Walcott.

“We have been very focused after Ipswich – those last two games against Ipswich and Leeds weren’t the real Arsenal. No disrespect to those two teams but we are much higher up than them and we should do better.

“So we just wanted to win on Saturday and in recent years we haven’t always won at West Ham. Last season we were 2-0 up and it ended up 2-2.

“But we got a great win and a clean sheet. We always know we are going to score goals and the important thing is keeping a clean sheet and being solid at the other end.”

That kept the Gunners in close contention at the top, and Walcott is more than happy for the Gunners to be tucked behind the two Manchester clubs in third place, for the moment at least.

“We didn’t even know how other teams had done on Saturday, we didn’t have a clue,” insisted the 21-year-old. “We are not asking other teams to do us favours.

“We are just staying in the background, nice and smooth, and hopefully that will get us back to the top.

“This could be a great year, we’ve played the likes of Chelsea and Man City twice, the mood is great and always has been, we love playing together.”

“We are learning from each other. We have had so much experience in playing together for the last few years and hopefully that will pay off now and we can turn it into silverware.

And for Walcott personally, his goal at Upton Park took his tally for the season so far into double figures, the first time he has reached that milestone.

Even more impressively his 10 goals have come from just 12 starts in all competitions, and Walcott admits that it’s goals and games that he wants for the rest of the season.

“For me, I just want to play,” added Walcott. “The goals help and if the team is winning it is much nicer to be in a winning team.

“That’s all I can do for the team, get assists like I did on Saturday, and if I can get a goal too then even better.”