By Nick Ames

Theo Walcott has paid tribute to the ‘gladiatorial’ qualities of Thomas Vermaelen and the hunger he has shown at both ends of the pitch during the Gunners’ fine run of form.

The Belgian has scored vital winners against Newcastle and Everton in the side’s last two games - the former coming from a late cross by the England winger - and Walcott told Saturday’s Official Matchday Programme that his stomach for the battle is second to none.

“[They were] brilliant - really important goals as well,” he said.

“The Newcastle win was massive and he showed that desire to get from defence to attack and latch onto things. He’s an absolute soldier, someone you’d always want in front of you, a real leader who just wants to win.

“To see him banging in another big goal at Everton was great. I’m happy for him - he had his injury problems last season but he’s one of the best defenders in the world without a doubt.”

  • Read the full interview with Theo in Saturday's Official Matchday Programme. Subscribe here or call 0207 535 7224.
Copyright 2014 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 24 Mar 2012