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Can Arsenal’s Theo Walcott be the next Thierry Henry?

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For those that watched Arsenal’s rout of Slavia Prague this week in the Champions League will no doubt have witnessed some history in the making.

Not only was the score line equaled to the best ever victory for a side since Juventus tore Olympiakos apart in 2003 but also matched Arsenal’s own personal best European result. That result came against Standard Liege in the 1993-94 Cup Winners’ Cup (which Arsenal won that season — an omen perhaps?)

The win also marked a 12th straight victory for the Gunners (the best run they’ve had under Wenger), their record being 14. The history making I’m referring to in particular is one that has only just begun and long may it continue.

18 year old Theo Walcott scored twice in the match, the first Englishman to score for the team in Europe since Sol Campbell in THAT final. Since his arrival from Southampton the fresh faced finisher has had a lot of expectations piled onto him, especially after being picked for the World Cup last year which he didn’t feature in.

Prior to last years tournament Sven made comparisons of Walcott to Pele after the Brazilian featured in his first World Cup at the same age of 17 and stealing the show. No pressure then Theo! There is someone else that Theo reminded me of though in the Slavia Prague match….that lightning pace, the threaded passes, the finishing.

If it’s not obvious enough already then I’m talking about Thierry. Now please don’t jump to conclusions and think that what I’m saying is Walcott can be the next Henry but…. Walcott can be the next Henry! Now before you start choking on your own saliva or write this whole article off as rubbish just hear me out.

Let’s not forget, first of all, that Arsene Wenger is the master when it comes to developing players and bringing the best of their abilities out to their full potential. It takes time and many started writing Arsenal off in recent years (especially after Henry’s departure) but the team have made those who criticised eat their words in the best possible way — playing world class football that everyone has to salute, including the Slavia Prague fans who were applauding Arsenal despite the embarrassing score line for their side.

The two teams had never met before this game and I bet Slavia Prague are wishing they never had! Fabregas’ second goal came after an 18 pass move, that’s Argentina football right there! Even commentator Jim Beglin said he was “privileged” to be watching this team. Well said Jim!

It’s taken a while for Walcott to show his true potential and come out of his shell but with the confidence backed by his manager, voiced appraisals from team-mates van-Persie and Fabregas, young Theo was immediately taken under the legendary wing of Mr Henry — like a king coming to the end of his reign tutoring the chosen apprentice to someday rule his land! I can almost hear them now…“One day my son, this will all be yours.”

Seriously how often did we see Thierry with his arm around his adopted protégé last season whispering the secrets of the game to him? Almost every time he wasn’t dancing with Adebayor is your answer! And even at the final whistle on Tuesday I noticed Gilberto Silva pulling Theo to one side and giving him some advice. With this protection, support and belief supplied to the young man by his ‘band of brothers’ can only justify the fans’ patience and encourage them to believe that Wenger knows what he’s doing and the players all know something special is there.

When being interviewed after the game Theo commented on his “Thierry Henry finish” for his second goal. Well he has had first hand experience and guidance by the man himself and he was right. After watching him race down the left flank I was shouting at the screen for him to square it across goal for the open Adebayor but instead he coolly slotted it in with the outside of his right boot. One word quickly entered my head: reminiscent.

After his award winning cameo role last week against Bolton, Walcott was rewarded with a starting role again the Czech’s. The Englishman grabbed the opportunity with both hands. And he started up front in favour of Eduardo who remained on the bench. Didn’t Henry start off as a midfielder too? I can see a star being moulded and the future’s bright.

Yes, Walcott is an ambassador for England in a multi ethnic squad but for those that criticise the lack of Englishmen in Arsenal’s team all I say is they are a real representation of a multi cultural modern London. Young, hungry and with the world at his feet if Walcott continues his rapid progress we’ll witness the true transformation of England’s future — at Arsenal! And if the Gunners continue the way they are playing then we’ll witness the next batch of “invincibles” unfolding. At this still early stage in the season though all I can say is the next two Premiership matches will be the young side’s biggest tests.

Liverpool at Anfield and Manchester United at home are going to be key games and will show their true ambitions and desire to compete with the big guns. Just imagine if Arsenal were to win the league this season to defy the big spending rivals that snap closely at their heels.

For now though, the only thing to truly declare is this: bring on the scousers and mancs because Arsenal have got another record to smash — that 12 game winning streak.

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