Theo Walcott single-handedly powered Arsenal past West Ham United on Boxing Day, scoring two goals in a three-minute span to give the Premier League leaders an advantage they wouldn't relinquish.
Walcott's two-goal performance was good enough to earn him Man of the Match honors.
Like Arsenal, the 24-year-old forward started slow at Upton Park. But sensing it was do-or-die time for the Gunners late in the second half, Walcott came to life, making the most of Santi Cazorla's setup to equalize in the 68th minute with a tremendous left-footed finish that somehow made it past West Ham goalkeeper Adrian, as Premier League on Twitter detailed:
GOAL West Ham 1-1 Arsenal (68 mins) Theo Walcott works the ball onto his left foot before rolling the ball past Adrian #WHUARS— Premier League (@premierleague) December 26, 2013
Having been fired up by the equalizer, Walcott was fully alert three minutes later when the ball came his way again. This time, he showcased his skill with a classy header:
GOAL West Ham 1-2 Arsenal (71 mins) What a turnaround at Upton Park! Theo Walcott's thumping header puts the Gunners ahead #WHUARS— Premier League (@premierleague) December 26, 2013
Lukas Podolski would put the finishing touches on Arsenal's 3-1 victory, but Walcott had already stolen the show.
Walcott's impressive second-half performance was highlighted by remarkable poise and an undeniable nose for goal. He only touched the ball 57 times total from start to finish (per WhoScored.com) but recorded five shots and capitalized on his stellar chances in the penalty area.
Squawka Football on Twitter breaks down Walcott's aggressive play:
Theo Walcott really wanted to get on that scoresheet today. He spent 22% of the game inside West Ham's penalty area. pic.twitter.com/07ALnnClJJ— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 26, 2013
If you're grading Walcott's effort, anything less than an A would be unfair. In addition to delivering in the final third, he played his best football in the biggest moment, providing Arsenal with a massive lift when they needed it the most.
Time for people to rate Theo Walcott, top player.— Garreth Porter (@PorterG94) December 26, 2013
But seriously Theo Walcott is a fantastic finisher, a big game player and we have missed him.— The Arsenal (@Artekkers) December 26, 2013
After the match, Walcott was quick to credit his teammates for Arsenal's extraordinary turnaround, per Standard.co.uk:
I think we've been criticised of late for not scoring many goals. When you go 1-0 down you need to have a positive reaction and all the guys reacted in a great way.
I missed a chance in the first half I should have buried and I know because I set high standards for myself but you need to put those things out of your mind and luckily we managed to fight on.
The guys showed great character to come back from that.
Remember, prior to the Gunners' 3-1 win over West Ham, they had earned just two points total over their three previous league games.
Therefore, Walcott's timely contributions not only serve as a late Christmas gift for Gunners fans, but they also keep Arsenal on the championship pace in the Premier League. He now has four goals in a dozen league appearances in 2013-14.
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