Revitalised Walcott greedy for Arsenal Premier League win
01 June 2015, 08:40
London - Theo Walcott has vowed to put a season of misery behind him and fire Arsenal's Premier League title challenge next season following the club's masterful FA Cup final triumph.
Walcott missed most of the season with a knee injury, but put in an eye-catching display in the Gunners' 4-0 demolition of Aston Villa at Wembley on Saturday having been given the chance to impress in his favoured central striker role.
"I missed last season due to injury and personal problems and it was nice to come back with a bounce," Walcott told reporters as he emerged from the victorious dressing room.
The 26-year-old, who scored Arsenal's first goal with a crisp strike just before half-time, praised manager Arsene Wenger for sticking by him, and backed Arsenal's "family" spirit to put them in the running for title honours next term.
"It is fantastic to win the FA Cup in consecutive years, it's a whole family here, but the league is the big ultimate goal. I'm looking forward to that challenge," he said.
"This is one of the best squads we have had at Arsenal so we should be achieving more. We need to start well in the Premier League next year."
His first-half opener was followed by a 25-yard rocket from Chile forward Alexis Sanchez, a header from German defender Per Mertesacker and a close-range finish in stoppage-time from substitute Olivier Giroud, the man who lost his starting place to the resurgent Walcott.
World Cup winner Mertesacker said the pacy England international was playing with "great confidence" after his comeback.
"Theo did really well and is on a good run at the moment," the giant German told reporters. "That's why the manager picked him today, he has great confidence and we are delighted for him."
Mertesacker echoed Walcott's belief that, after two successive FA Cup triumphs, winning the league must be the next goal.
"We finished quite convincingly in third spot but we want to compete more for the first spot," he said.
"We weren't good enough in the first part of the season so we will celebrate tonight and tomorrow with the fans and look forward to our holidays and then towards next season. It's going to be tough."
Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who scored the winner for Arsenal in last year's final against Hull, had words of support for the dropped Giroud, saying he had "played his part" throughout the cup run and after coming on as a substitute in the final.
Ramsey also praised the contribution of the impressive Sanchez since his move from Barcelona last year.
"What he has done this season has been remarkable, for his first season in English football," Ramsey said.
Having worked to strengthen Arsenal's notoriously soft centre, Wenger now has steel to add to an attacking department overflowing with talent.
"We have a great squad and hopefully now we can show what we can do and challenge for the Premier League," Ramsey added.
Their cause could also be boosted by the return to fitness of captain Mikel Arteta, who went to lift the trophy despite missing the last three months with an ankle injury.
"He deserves it, he is our captain and has been out for a long time," said Mertesacker. "It will give him a lift to come back next season even stronger."
But Arteta's contract runs out at the end of the season, and an announcement is due to be made shortly on his future.
For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page!