Theo Walcott was picked for the World Cup 2006 without having played in a single Premier League game in his career. The former Southampton's meteoric rise to stardom could have affected his mentality in a huge way, but the England International has to date been humble and hardworking.
It is undoubted that the winger is talented and can be immense for Arsenal and England in the future, but he has still not achieved the consistency required to be a world-class player.
It is clear that Walcott has improved a lot this season, and, should he continue with his progress, he could be a world-class striker in the future. Though Walcott has been criticised by a number of experts and critics, he has not bothered about it too much. It is good that Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger has backed him throughout his time at the club.
Walcott's problem has been decision making, because he makes good incisive runs and his speed enables him to run behind defenders. But he has not made the right decisions after getting the ball from midfield, which is why he has received a lot of criticism.
Football expert Chris Waddle went as far as to say that the Arsenal winger had no "football brain," which was countered by Wenger by saying that Theo was one of the most intelligent lads at the club.
His inconsistency in the past can be observed in the game against Burnley at the Emirates last season, where he was awarded the Man of the Match for his impressive performance. He got into excellent positions in the first half, but his crossing was wayward and he did not make the right decisions in front of goal.
But his second half performance was brilliant, and he should have had at least three assists (and a goal which he scored) if not for Nicklas Bendtner's profligacy in front of goal that day. If Theo Walcott can produce performances like that on a regular basis, he will be a great player for sure.
He has already improved from the previous season and has scored 10 goals this season, despite spending a lot of time on the bench and in the treatment room. Walcott has looked more confident in front of goal, which is a sign that he has the ability to play in the centre in the future.
Though he likes to play in the centre where he can run behind defenders at will, he as not complained about where he has played and has shown great attitude.
Young players who are the talk of the town believe their own hype—leading to discontentment for the player—but that has not been the case for Walcott, who has waited patiently for the chance to establish himself in the team.
Wenger has maintained that that he had more quality than coming on only as an impact substitute and has started him in a lot of games this season.
Walcott has spent a lot of time on the bench in his Arsenal career, which ultimately cost him his place in the England team in the World Cup, but it has been due to his injuries that he has never had a consistent run of games.
Wenger has believed in the forward's talent and considers him to be a integral member of Arsenal's team, along with compatriots Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs.
Walcott has not voiced negative feelings even when benched on a number of occasions, which shows his professionalism, and he only said once in a positive way that he wanted to play regularly for the Gunners.
Arshavin's inconsistent performances this season has meant Walcott has started games ahead of the Russian, with Walcott being superb in recent games against Chelsea where he scored one and assisted one.
There are a number of young talented players at Arsenal who will find it hard to break into the first team because of the immense competition at the club. But, they must believe that the manager will give them opportunities to prove their calibre and they must wait for their chances. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are examples of youngsters who have been given opportunities to establish themselves in the first team.
Despite his rise to fame at a very young age, Theo Walcott has remained grounded and worked hard to establish himself in the first team. He has signed a long-term contract with the Gunners and has been rewarded for his hard work by starting more games this season.
Youngsters must follow his example and must be prepared to work hard. Walcott may not be a world class player as of today, but he has certainly shown the attitude needed to be one in the future.
This article is also featured on The Invincible Gunners, a blog on Arsenal and other football news.