Theo Walcott confident of returning to form for Arsenal and England

 

Theo Walcott has no doubts he can return to form to drive Arsenal on in the Barclays Premier League and play himself into the England World Cup squad.

The pacy forward made his first appearance since September when he came on for the final 20 minutes of the 2-0 win over former club Southampton at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, which moved Arsenal four points clear at the top of the table after being gifted an opening goal by a blunder from visiting goalkeeper Artur Boruc.

Since being sidelined by an abdominal problem which required surgery, Walcott has seen the Gunners make positive headlines again and the likes of Tottenham winger Andros Townsend stake a claim for a place in Roy Hodgson's final 23-man England party for Brazil 2014.

While the 24-year-old admits he was somewhat rusty on his comeback, Walcott has every confidence it will not be long before he is up to full speed once again.

"It is a challenge I can face, I have faced some in my short career so far," said Walcott, who was a controversial omission from Fabio Capello's 2010 World Cup squad in South Africa.

"It is nothing new to me, I know how to deal with it all.

"I have some fantastic people around me and know how good I am.

"It will take a couple of games, but I am sure I will be back to my best very soon."

Walcott continued: "It has been longer than I thought, but it is so good to be back out on the pitch with the guys and playing in such a fantastic team.

"Seeing the way we play football has been fairly pleasant to watch (from the sidelines), but any player who is injured wants to go out there and perform.

"It is frustrating at times, but you have just got to think about getting back fit as soon as you can, and I am happy to be back now."

Walcott could be drafted into the starting XI for Tuesday night's Champions League clash against Marseille, where another victory would see Arsenal all but secure safe passage through to the knockout stage.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger feels the England forward will make a major impact when fully match fit.

"Theo looks a bit off the pace of high level competition, but let's not forget he has been out for seven weeks," he said.

"Now he needs competition and preparation, and will go from strength to strength."

Arsenal had twice hit the woodwork before they went ahead on 22 minutes when Saints keeper Boruc was robbed in possession by Olivier Giroud as he tried dragbacks in the penalty area and the France forward ran on to put the ball into an empty net.

Nevertheless, Wenger feels the team worked hard to secure the victory which was confirmed four minutes from time when Giroud scored a second from the penalty spot after a shirt pull by Jose Fonte on Per Mertesacker.

"We have improved in our defensive stability, and the team was highly focused," said the Arsenal boss.

"We suffered a bit physically, but overall the concentration was there."

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino refused to lay the blame solely at the unsteady feet of Boruc for what was only a second defeat of an impressive Premier League campaign for his side.

It was a sentiment echoed by defender Jos Hooiveld, who was drafted into the side following illness to Dejan Lovren.

"We are Southampton, we win as a team and we lose as a team," Hooiveld said on Saints Player.

"If somebody makes a mistake they put their hands up to say I could have done this or that, but it is never a blaming atmosphere.

"Next week the fans will be happy again if Artur makes a great save, so that is part of football."

There was, though, little sign of support from the goalkeeper's union by Arsenal stopper Wojciech Szczesny - a direct rival to Boruc within the Poland national team.

"I did not see what happened because I was focussed on organising my back four and it was quite far away from me," he said.

"But I would rather give credit to Olivier for closing people down and trying to take advantage of other people's mistakes."

PA

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