By Richard Clarke
The last time Theo Walcott came up against Chelsea in a showpiece game it was both a pivotal and painful moment in his career.
The former Southampton winger chose the Carling Cup Final of 2007 to score his first goal since his move to Arsenal just over a year before. The strike put Arsène Wenger’s side in front however Didier Drogba’s double meant the trophy went back to West London.
On the eve of the FA Cup Semi-Final between the two sides, Walcott recalled that game and revealed his troublesome shoulder had popped out during the game.
Since then the 20-year-old has had operations on both his left and right side. He recently returned to form after three and a half months out and struck the crucial first goal in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Villarreal in midweek. But that game in Cardiff still resonates with Walcott.
“[The Carling Cup Final] was a great experience for us all,” he said. “Hopefully, we'll see in the Semi-Final that it will have paid off.
“The boss is fantastic and he gives the young players an opportunity to play, especially in the Carling Cup. And I thought we were unlucky in that game. We dug in well.
"That was my first year, I had a shoulder injury going into the game, I had a massive strapping on it and it still popped out a few times that day. I hid it quite well, because it's not nice.
"The pain is so bad. My right was worse because it would pop out and pop back in like from the Mel Gibson days in Lethal Weapon 2.
“The other day someone said that when I first joined I got pushed off the ball too easily. But I was 16 at the time, I wasn’t full-grown and I’m still growing now.
“I had those shoulder injuries that no one knew about. I have been in the gym quite a bit since then and I’m growing now.
“I’m 20 and I feel stronger than ever. It was nice to get the first whack [following the surgery]. After that you know they're strong.
"I've probably got the strongest shoulders in the Premier League now. Hopefully, they're nice and sturdy.”Copyright 2016 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