Walcott belongs here, claims Wenger
Arsene Wenger revelled in Theo Walcott's Thierry Henry-esque hat-trick and then reiterated his desire to keep hold of the star forward following yesterday’s stunning 7-3 win over Newcastle at the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger deployed Walcott as Arsenal's lone hitman for the third game running and the move paid off handsomely as the 23-year-old bagged three well-taken goals and set up two more to lift the Gunners back up to fourth position in the Premier League.
On Friday Wenger talked up Walcott's ability to convert himself from a winger to a top striker - just as Henry did - and the former Southampton man has now racked up four goals in his last three games in the role.
Walcott's desire to play centrally is thought to be key to his chances of signing an extension to his contract, which expires at the end of the season, and Wenger remains hopeful that the England international will not leave.
The Arsenal manager said: "My desire is to extend his contract. I think he belongs here. Hopefully we can do it.
"I think he loves the club and the club loves him and the reciprocity in love is the most difficult to find."
Henry, who is training with Arsenal ahead of a potential second loan spell, rose to his feet to applaud Walcott after he broke from the half way line and slotted past Tim Krul to put Arsenal ahead.
A glut of goals then followed. Newcastle equalised through Demba Ba, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then scored to make it 2-1 to Arsenal before Ba grabbed his second to make it 2-2.
Lukasz Podolski and Sylvain Marveaux then cancelled each other out with their strikes before Walcott set Olivier Giroud up for both his strikes and he added two of his own - the last one a wonderful chip over Krul after the forward was knocked over by Cheick Tiote in the box.
"Today just typifies what I think he can do through the middle," Wenger said.
"The first goal was a Thierry Henry-type goal and he showed great determination with the third."
"I enjoy playing in whatever position but it was just telling the manager to give me the opportunities to play up front" - Theo Walcott
"He has become a good finisher. He has learned a lot because he is an intelligent player and because he is intelligent he will continue to improve."
Walcott has scored four goals and won one decisive penalty in the three games he has started up front and he now has 14 for the season.
"I enjoy playing in whatever position but it was just telling the manager to give me the opportunities to play up front," the former Southampton man told ESPN.
"I'm not saying I'm always going to play up front but it's just showing what I can do but hopefully I've opened a few eyes and it's just a different option.
"Hopefully, I can start to take it a bit more often now."