Theo Walcott hails goal hero Robin van Persie


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The Independent Football

Theo Walcott is convinced that Robin van Persie is the best striker in the Barclays Premier League.

Van Persie has been in excellent form this season, almost single-handedly dragging the Gunners back in to the race for the Champions League by scoring 33 goals in 38 matches.

Despite playing almost every game, Van Persie has remained injury-free this term - a scenario he could have only wished for in previous years. The Dutchman missed the final two months of last season - a period that coincided with the club's implosion - and he spent five months of the previous campaign sidelined with an ankle problem.

But the 28-year-old's injury woes now appear to be behind him, much to Walcott's delight.

He said: "When I was on the treatment bed alongside him in previous years it was such a shame to see so much talent wasted.

"He has made up for lost time, I am sure of that.

"You just give him anything and he will put it away - left foot, right foot and he has scored a couple of headers as well.

"He makes it look easy and it's really not.

"Wayne Rooney is still several goals behind him and has had a fantastic season as well. It just shows you how good this man is."

Walcott has been one of the main reasons why Van Persie has had such a prolific season.

Despite being the subject of boos from the home crowd earlier this year, the winger has been in excellent form recently and starred in last night's thrilling win over Newcastle, setting up Van Persie to equalise Hatem Ben Arfa's opener before Thomas Vermaelen snatched a 95th minute winner.

The Gunners are sweating on the futures of both players as their contracts expire next summer, but Walcott insists he is not panicking about his current situation.

"I like to do my talking on the pitch and if I just keep on playing well then I will see what comes," Walcott said.

"I like to let my agent deal with that side of things."

One thing Walcott is sure of is that he wants Van Persie to stay this summer.

"This is maybe the second year that Robin and I have had a run together in the team and hopefully, in the future I would like to play up front with him" Walcott said.

"That would be fantastic for me but if I am setting up goals then that is the most important thing. If he's enjoying what I am doing then that is great.

"If the staff and the coaches are happy, that's all I want. I'm enjoying playing football at the moment, I'm still only 22 so there is a lot to come from me.

"I feel great, I've never played so much in my life on a consistent level for 90 minutes."

Newcastle made the long trip back to Tyneside knowing that the defeat has practically ended their slim hopes of Champions League qualification.

The manner of the defeat was sickening for one player in particular - Danny Simpson.

Simpson galloped forward as the Magpies looked for an injury-time winner but he could only watch on in dismay as Arsenal hit back on the counter and scored while he was hobbling back after suffering cramp.

"I feel sick, I'm not going to lie," Simpson told Newcastle's website.

"Last week it was us who got the late goal (against Sunderland).

"We were on a high and it felt good. This week, after the effort we put in, it's sickening to come here, play our hearts out and concede like that. It hurts.

"I wish I could have got back but I got cramp. I feel more gutted for me than for the lads; they're not saying it's my fault but I couldn't get back. I just cramped up, I think with all the work we put in. It was in my position at the end."