The FA Cup returns this weekend with a host of enticing fourth round ties, including an all Premier League clash as holders Arsenal travel to the south coast to face Southampton.
The game will see a number of former teammates reunited, including Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Saints winger Theo Walcott, who spent 12 years in North London after being plucked from Southampton’s academy as a 16-year-old.
Ahead of the tie, of which the winner will face either Chorley or Wolves in the fifth round, Arsenal boss Arteta has spoken highly of his former teammate Walcott.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, the Spaniard praised Walcott’s form this season.
“He looks really good this season that’s for sure. He’s played a lot of minutes. He scored against us a very typical Theo Walcott goal when we played them at the Emirates earlier in the season,” he said.
“He was a teammate of mine, a great lad and I’m happy that he’s doing well because he’s gone through some difficult periods with some bad injuries and he deserves that.”
Walcott, who was included in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England squad for the 2006 World Cup at the age of 16, was sold by then Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to Everton in 2018 after 108 goals and 397 appearances for the Gunners.
After struggling to nail down a starting spot under Carlo Ancelotti, Walcott returned to boyhood club Southampton on loan in the summer and has impressed with Saints defying expectations during the first half of the season.
It is not yet clear where the 31-year-old’s future lies, with neither Southampton nor Everton commenting on their plans for the winger after his loan deal comes to an end at the end of the season.