Theo Walcott made the most of a starting opportunity up front by scoring the opening goal in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Stoke City in the Premier League this afternoon.
The 26-year-old was preferred to Olivier Giroud, who replaced him as a late substitute and wrapped up the Gunners’ first home win of the season with an 85th-minute second.
Walcott has spent much of his career at the Emirates Stadium playing on the right wing, but has been pining for a go through the middle, as Arsenal’s official website reports.
And Arsene Wenger’s refusal to buy a striker, or a single outfield player, during the summer transfer window, means that the England international may finally get his way.
He was given the nod over Giroud against Newcastle United prior to the international break, but failed to make much of an impression despite the 1-0 win at St James’ Park.
With Giroud having experienced difficulty on France duty, when he was booed off by his own fans during a 2-1 victory over Serbia [the Independent], Wenger kept faith with Walcott.
And the former Southampton youngster rewarded his manager by finishing calmly from Mesut Ozil’s chipped pass to make Arsenal’s dominance over the Potters count on 31 minutes.
Jack Butland had previously made excellent saves to deny Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny, and denied Walcott twice in the second half to keep Stoke in the contest.
But Giroud, moments after dragging wide when one-on-one with the impressive Potters stopper, headed beyond the England understudy from Cazorla’s free kick to end his resistance.
The three points lift Arsenal to second in the table, although five points behind leaders Manchester City. Stoke drop to the bottom of the standings on goal difference after a fifth winless game.
Giroud and Walcott, who is still yet to complete 90 minutes in the top flight since January 2014, are the only Arsenal players to score in the Premier League this season. So, could Wenger play them both?
Walcott may have a preference to play centrally, but he is just as much of a goalscoring threat coming in off the right, as his brace as an England substitute against San Marino last week showed.
But he is not combative enough to operate as a lone striker against the top sides in the country. Giroud ticks the physicality box, and may still be the best option with Walcott’s speed and goals on his flank.