I am one of those people who has said that Theo Walcott is not a centre forward, especially a centre forward in the system we play in. Now you have to factor in the opposition and the fact that they had nothing to play for somewhere into the mix but I was thoroughly impressed with what I saw against West Brom on Sunday afternoon.
Oliver Giroud was always going to get a rest in this fixture, he hasn't been scoring for a number of games now and looks as if his mini scoring drought is bothering him. Had we had Danny Welbeck available then you'd imagine that Walcott might not have been given a chance but as fate would have it, Welbeck will have to miss the cup final through injury and Theo Walcott who impressed when coming on against Sunderland was given a start in the position he has craved for a long time now.
Jack Wilshere also started in the wide right forward position along with Kieran Gibbs and Gabriel coming into the back four.
The way I saw it, we started just as we did against Sunderland, moving the ball quickly and looking for openings in the final third. The difference this time was the movement from our forward players.
I absolutely loved Theo Walcott's goal and not just for the strike itself but the part before that. Mesut Özil had the ball in a central position with time on the ball and his head up. This sparked a reaction from the players ahead of him.
First Alexis Sanchez made a similar run to the one he made at Wembley against Reading but then checked his run when he saw Özil shift to his left a bit more instead of playing the pass, now Theo Walcott thought he could be in and made a similar dart into the same area that Alexis went into just ahead of him, it was Alexis moving back into his left position that fooled the West Brom players and left Theo on his own on the right edge of the box.
Özil gave it to Wilshere who knocked it on to Cazorla and the Spaniard slipped Walcott in who had been screaming for the ball. Walcott took a touch to get it out of his feet and whipped a shot across the keeper into the top corner of the goal.
I just loved how Alexis and Walcott were fully aware of Özil's ability and strengths and it sparked them into life. Walcott's shot was so clean.
His econd goal reminded me of an Ian Wright type of goal. Skipping past a defender and prodding the ball past the keeper on the stretch.
The hat trick was another Ian Wright goal, poaching in the right place and the right time to tap in Cazorla's fizzed cross shot at the back post.
There is a reason why Oliver Giroud has never managed to register a hat trick for Arsenal so far and Walcott has done so twice playing as centre forward. Walcott plays for goals, Giroud plays primarily to support the players around him. Both attributes are very important, and you can miss the other in certain fixtures when that player is not available.
This is why I would like further inspection of Theo in this position, perhaps away from home against a team who will not give him as much room to run into. A game where he might need to keep the ball and wait for team mates to arrive. If he can show that he can give us that then he'll deserve a new improved contract because he has some very important qualities to play the role.
Arsene has a decision to make when it comes to the cup final, does he keep faith with the striker who has performed for us continuously until losing form over the last month to six weeks or does he go with the form player who changes the dynamic of the players around him?
Personally I think he will stick with Walcott, I think I remember him saying in a recent interview that he selects players based on a good feeling they give in training. If Walcott is getting chances at centre forward as well as the manager making public comments about it being the right time for him then it is likely that he is showing good signs on the London Colny pitches.
Another player who is knocking loudly on the cup final door is Jack Wilshere. He has looked very sharp since coming back from injury. He took everyone by surprise at Hull City on his comeback and then helped turn the second half around at Old Trafford. Against West Brom he was wonderful again and topped it off with a great rising half volley into the top corner.
I would be very surprised to see Wilshere get into next weekend's side as it would mean probably replacing Aaron Ramsey and that simply is not going to happen, whether that be from the right or centre. I can't believe that some people are still doubting him, maybe it is because they want a more natural wide player in the team I don't know but Ramsey is one of the leaders on the pitch. The player we turn to, to make something happen. Ramsey came on late against West Brom when the game had wound down and still made his mark on the game with three excellent attempts on goal including two off the woodwork.
Before that West Brom had pulled a goal back from a corner kick. David Ospina won't want to watch that again, neither will he want to see his fumble almost fly into his own net from a long range shot. I can't shake the feeling that Arsene will scrap his cup keeper tradition in favour of the Columbian. What other reason is there for Szczesny not starting what essentially was a meaningless game before a cup final?
As others have mentioned previously Lukasz Fabianski played in the last league game before the final last season. Let's hope that the team defend well enough so whichever keeper does not have a great deal to do. Wishful thinking perhaps.
So that was it, we finished in 3rd and in my eyes we have made an obvious improvement regardless of what happens next weekend. If the question is about which season is better then that is a different question. You just have to see with your own eyes the quality we have in our squad. On a very basic level, we have lost one starter from last season in Sagna and replaced him with Debuchy but have added players like Alexis and Welbeck. Not to mention the progress of Coquelin and Bellerin. This squad is clearly an improvement on the previous season.
Unfortunately mitigating circumstances has meant that our first half of the season was heavily disrupted. Fingers crossed we can top the season off with a second FA cup win.
If you have yet to listen to the West Brom podcast then give it a go. Also check out the Q&A