Theo Walcott was thrilled to be back in business for Arsenal in their FA Cup third round win on Sunday as he declared his delight at playing alongside “special player” Alexis Sanchez.
Walcott played 76 minutes of Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Hull City at the Emirates Stadium, enjoying his first start in exactly a year since suffering the knee injury which kept him out of England’s World Cup plans.
It was a quiet but encouraging return which prompted the 25-year-old old to tell the BBC: “It was nice for me personally to blow the cobwebs away after being out for a year to the day. It was nice to get involved and get a few chances. I wanted to put them away and it wasn’t to be.”
Yet the man who says he is still determined to end his career as “an Arsenal legend” suspected he may be watching another in the shape of Sanchez, who was brilliant the entire match before scoring Arsenal’s decisive second after 82 minutes.
“Alexis Sanchez is a special player and it was nice to get on the pitch with him finally. I’m looking forward to plenty more,” said Walcott.
His return spells good news for England as well as Arsenal, the FA Cup holders who are seeking to improve in the second half of the season after dropping to sixth in the Premier League.
Walcott said it felt good to be back after the sometimes solitary slog to recover fitness.
“I think mentally it is very hard when you are in the treatment room alone, when your team mates are going out to train or going to the World Cup,” said the player, who ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
“But I had a lot going on in my life off the field which helped me keep going.”
Walcott showed he had not lost his electric pace but his finishing, as he miscued one glaring opportunity, demonstrated some rustiness.