By Rob Kelly
Arsène Wenger believes Theo Walcott’s sparkling form up front gives his squad genuine options as they head into the new year.
The England international played through the middle for the third successive match against Newcastle on Saturday and claimed a superb hat-trick in a 7-3 win.
Wenger was delighted with the 23-year-old’s impact and says his unique skill set provides a viable alternative to Olivier Giroud as the team’s central striker.
“He likes it [in that position],” the manager told Arsenal Player. “But I believe Theo is just happy to play, even if he is on the wing because he still knows he can score.
“I like the fact he can play through the middle because it gives us more opportunities to do that and more possibilities to change from game to game. I will do it again.”
Walcott has yet to sign a new contract at the Club, but Wenger does not believe his performance against Newcastle will sway negotiations one way or the other.
“I have worked with Theo for seven years and the fact that he had an exceptional game today will not influence me more or less,” he said.
“If he’d had a disastrous game, I would still have wanted him to sign with the same intensity. It is good that he gets rewarded for his effort. That, for me, is more important.”
Wenger was delighted to end a challenging 2012 on a high note, and he admits has high hopes for the year ahead.
“I enjoyed [this match] very much because there was everything in there,” he said. “We played against a good team, it was not a 7-3 because we played against a poor team.
“They kept going: three times we were in front and three times they came back, but it didn't look to affect the team. That was positive for me, and I think it will boost the confidence of the team.
“My hope is that this win will give even more confidence, desire and ambition to our team, and that in 2013 will confirm we are a great side.”
Watch the full interview with the boss on Arsenal Player now.