By ANTONY KASTRINAKIS
THEO WALCOTT will never forget the night he became Arsenal’s main man.
His hat-trick was one of the best-ever in Premier League history.
Thierry Henry may have been here to witness it but one’s mind harped back to Dennis Bergkamp at Leicester.
THAT is how good Theo’s goals were. THAT is how important they were. THAT is how stupid Arsene Wenger would be to let him go.
Walcott’s supershow made Arsenal look all the more ridiculous for failing to announce the news EVERY Gunners fan is desperately hoping for. That Theo has finally signed a new deal.
He IS now Arsenal’s main man. No question. And he should be the one for years to come.
Former skipper Henry was here to see how his finishing lessons with Walcott at the Gunners’ London Colney HQ have paid off handsomely. Blimey, on this evidence the pupil might even become better than the teacher.
Don’t let the scoreline fool you — Newcastle were in this until six minutes from time. But two goals from supersub Olivier Giroud and one from Walcott made it a rout.
Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are good on the ball. Hell, sometimes even great.
Without the ball, though, they are just watching. There is no pressing, no hassle on opponents.
This has not been an easy season for the Magpies after the breathtaking pace they set last campaign. It is now six points from 30 for Alan Pardew’s men and they have been sucked into the dogfight at the bottom. Worryingly they are only three points above the drop zone.
For 15 minutes it seemed Arsenal were still digesting their Christmas pudding and Newcastle were still catching their breath from a 4-3 defeat at Old Trafford.
But after 17 minutes Sylvain Marveaux swung in a corner and Demba Ba headed a foot over.
Three minutes later Walcott beat the offside trap, latched on to Lukas Podolski’s through ball and, cool as you like, opened his body to beat Tim Krul.
It was just like watching Henry, who was rubbing his hands with glee in the stands. After 37 minutes Theo could and should have made it two.
He picked up Podolski’s pass and worked his way into the box but could not beat Krul.
Moments later there was more frustration as Walcott was one-on-one with Danny Simpson but tried to find Cazorla and his weak pass was intercepted.
Just before half–time Ba swung in a free-kick which hit Wilshere and arrowed into the net of a wrong-footed Wojciech Szczesny.
And Newcastle could easily have led at the break but Szczesny took off to acrobatically palm Marveaux’s 20-yard blast away for a corner.
The midfielder took it and Ba beat both Thomas Vermaelen and Podolski in the air but headed over. Two minutes after the restart Podolski fed Kieran Gibbs on the overlap but the full-back’s blast went straight at Krul. But Arsenal were soon back in front when Podolski’s header fell to Cazorla who fed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to slam home.
Newcastle were far from finished and just before the hour mark, Gabriel Obertan took on Bacary Sagna and squared the ball which came off Laurent Koscielny and fell nicely for Marveaux to tap in.
Krul produced another magnificent stop to push Cazorla’s missile over for a corner.
And the heroic keeper then rushed to the feet of Podolski after his one-two with Cazorla.
With 26 minutes left Podolski made it 3-2. Wilshere picked up the German’s ball and went wide before chipping in a cross.
Fabricio Coloccini tried to head over but the ball came off the bar and Podolski nodded home.
Yet again Newcastle hit back when Marveaux found Ba at the far post. But moments later Walcott produced a strike of pure instinct. Pure class.
Podolski fed Gibbs who cut it back to the German, he missed it and the ball fell for Walcott to swivel and hit a delightful shot into the net.
Walcott then crossed for sub Giroud to head home.
By now Newcastle were all over the place and on 87 minutes another Walcott run led to Giroud slamming his second.
Walcott sealed his hat-trick by turning Obertan inside out and recovering from a stumble in the box to chip Krul for No 7. And it was almost even worse for Pardew as Giroud hit the crossbar with just seconds left.