Is Theo Walcott maturing into a striker?

Is Theo Walcott maturing into a striker?

On the day Anthony Martial's status exploded as the teenager became a luxury-priced prospect for Manchester United, and Arsenal's vain summer search for an elite striker ended in disappointment, it was easy to reach the conclusion that the pool of established, talented forwards at the north London club was worryingly dry.

Both clubs had an easy £50m or so to spend on central strikers, and the best they could apparently come up with between them was a kid with a handful of goals to his name so far.

While Martial has been a revelation for United, a turbo-charged and cool-headed game-changer in terms of his impact on the team so far, Arsene Wenger was left examining internal solutions.

For Arsenal, who spent most of the transfer window like a teenager agonisingly watching the telephone to see if Karim Benzema's number would flash up, this was particularly frustrating.

Ever since the most prolific striker in their history, Thierry Henry, opined last April that Arsenal couldn't win the Premier League title without an upgrade in that department, the pressure to improve cranked up. "I'm afraid they need a top, top quality striker to win this league again," he said.

It was pretty clear, as far as Henry was concerned, that his compatriot Olivier Giroud was not in that "top, top quality" bracket.

It is telling that Theo Walcott was not really a major part of that conversation. At the time he was kicking his heels, mostly on the bench, trying to maintain the right mixture of patience and determination to take a chance when it came having spent a year recovering from a cruciate ligament injury.

More or less all of 2014 was spent rehabilitating, and changing his perspective as he became a father. Arsenal's first choice centre-forward? It was his ambition but it felt like a long shot.

Right now, ahead of a compelling challenge between Arsenal and Manchester United this weekend at the Emirates, the position feels like Walcott's for the taking. He has had to wait a long time to press his case. As he says: "I'll play anywhere, but the manager started playing me up front slowly."