By Chris Harris
They're young, fast and quite possibly the future of English football. Theo Walcott and Gabriel Agbonlahor have plenty in common but on Saturday they will put their friendship to one side when Arsenal meet Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium.
The duo are regulars in the England Under-21 set-up and both have sampled life in the senior squad. Walcott was famously called up for the World Cup finals in 2006 while Agbonlahor earned a place in Fabio Capello's squad for this month's friendly against Switzerland before injury ruled him out.
Agbonlahor's call-up was just reward for an outstanding season with Villa and Walcott is well aware of the damage he could inflict on Arsenal's title challenge this weekend.
"All of Villa's young players are absolutely tremendous - you just have to look at how many of them are getting into the England senior and Under-21 squads," Walcott told Arsenal.com.
"But Gabby has been doing fantastically well and it's such a shame he got injured just before going with England. He deserved the call-up, just like Ashley Young, because he's worked so hard. He is consistent too, he does well in every game.
"With Gabby you can over-cook a pass and he'll still get there because his pace is just phenomenal really, it's a joke. I love playing alongside players with pace. He's a clever player and he's got a good finish on him, which helps."
Walcott's searing pace is arguably his most potent weapon and Agbonlahor is no slouch either. So who would win in a race between the two? Walcott would back himself in a sprint against most opponents but admits he might have met his match in the Villa man.
"You know what, I do not have a clue who would win," said Walcott. "I'm doing a Nike event about who is fastest to the ball and I haven't done it yet but Gabby has done it so I need to try and beat his time.
"In the meantime, I'll see him before Saturday's game and we'll have a little chat then. Hopefully we'll get the result so I'll be happy to talk to him again afterwards!"Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source