By Chris Harris
Theo Walcott admits this has been an up-and-down season for him and Arsenal - but he is scaling the heights right now.
The England international produced what Arsène Wenger described as his "best performance for the Club" on Monday night, setting up both goals as Arsenal came from behind to snatch a last-gasp win over Newcastle.
Walcott's recent revival has mirrored that of the team's and he traces it back to the North London derby, when he scored twice to win over the Emirates Stadium crowd and help secure a magnificent 5-2 victory.
Arsenal could have trailed Tottenham by 13 points after that match; instead they find themselves within touching distance of their third-placed rivals with 10 games left.
"Football is a funny game, it is always up or down," reflected Walcott. "We are only one point behind Tottenham and nobody would have thought that a couple of months ago. It just shows how strong we are not only as a team but as collective individuals as well.
"I hope the derby will be a season-defining moment. Only time will tell and we don't want to get ahead of ourselves because we have a lot of tough games and so do Tottenham. But we don't need to concentrate on them, we need to concentrate on ourselves."
An in-form Walcott is the toast of the Arsenal fans once more and, on the cusp of his 23rd birthday, he is full of confidence.
"We try and play well in every game but if it's not happening you just have to try and forget about it. In the Tottenham game I did that and since then I've just been expressing myself.
"I'm enjoying playing football at the moment, I'm still only 22 - 23 on Friday - so there is still a lot to come from me I'm sure. But I feel great, I've never played so much in my life on a consistent level for 90 minutes.
"It obviously helps when the team is winning as well, that is important. The confidence just flows through the whole team. We have a lot of players coming back to fitness as well so there is more competition and you want to be on your toes. We're looking in good shape at the moment."Copyright 2013 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 13 Mar 2012