THEO WAL­COTT

Ar­se­nal’s speed de­mon ex­plains the se­cret train­ing ses­sions he uses that have su­per­charged his game

FourFourTwo - - PERFORMANCE - Theo Wal­cott wears the adi­das X 17+ Pure­speed – for more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.adi­das.co.uk or fol­low @adi­da­suk on so­cial me­dia

Hi Theo. How vi­tal is ex­tra train­ing to stay­ing fit and fast for a full sea­son? I think it’s im­por­tant to al­ways stay one step ahead of ev­ery­one else. If you can find a way to im­prove your game by one per cent, then you are go­ing to have an ad­van­tage over your op­po­nent. As you get older you need to take care of your body, as you can feel the in­ten­sity of the Pre­mier League im­prov­ing af­ter ev­ery sea­son. The younger play­ers are all phys­i­cally able to com­pete and that makes it even more com­pet­i­tive for a place in the team. You have to make sure you’re al­ways fit and ready to go.

Play­ers of­ten post im­ages of their work­out ses­sions on so­cial me­dia – does that pro­vide com­pe­ti­tion? I’m some­one who isn’t too both­ered about what other peo­ple are do­ing. I’m good at just fo­cus­ing on my­self and mak­ing sure that I do the lit­tle things right. If you are pro­fes­sional and do ev­ery­thing prop­erly on the train­ing field, in the gym and out­side of the club, things will fall in place. I like to have my week planned out, so I know when I head into a game I haven’t cut any cor­ners. But there is def­i­nitely a bit of com­pe­ti­tion when you see the other play­ers do­ing work­outs on so­cial me­dia – some­times you will see a coach us­ing one of your drills. It’s all fun and games.

Do you in­clude any ad­di­tional sprint work in your daily train­ing rou­tines? Af­ter I’d rup­tured my an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment [against Spurs in 2014] I was in­tro­duced to a sprint coach. I felt that was the first thing I needed to look at. Speed is a huge part of my game – I’m never go­ing to be an en­durance run­ner – and I was keen to make sure I didn’t lose my pace. I of­ten do foot­work drills with lad­ders or re­ac­tion ses­sions us­ing cones to re­tain sharp­ness. When I was young I tried to do 100-me­tre run­ning at county level, but my tech­nique was nowhere near that of trained sprint­ers. I never re­ally got the chance to work on it, but who knows – maybe I would have been a sprinter if I’d car­ried on with it?

You turned 28 in March hav­ing agreed to join Ar­se­nal at 16. Have you had to mod­ify train­ing as you’ve got older? I have al­ways done quite a lot of work away from the train­ing ground, so I’m con­tin­u­ing to do all of the right things. I’ve worked with a per­sonal trainer on my core strength, be­cause I’ve al­ways be­lieved that was a weak­ness of mine. I also spend some time in cryother­apy cham­bers and ice baths, while var­i­ous stretch­ing ex­er­cises help me to re­cover from train­ing ses­sions and matches as quickly as pos­si­ble. They def­i­nitely help be­cause I very rarely have aching legs af­ter­wards, so I’m ca­pa­ble of play­ing in a game once ev­ery two or three days.

With a cou­ple of young kids at home now, is your re­cov­ery regime af­fected? Not too much. I’m quite lucky be­cause nor­mally they sleep through the night and wake up at about 5.30am. I get up with them and once I’m up, I’m up, so I don’t go back to bed or any­thing like that. Once I’m in my car and head­ing off for train­ing, my fo­cus is all on that, and then when I go back home again I’m a dad. Hav­ing kids is re­ally good; they’re a healthy dis­trac­tion from foot­ball and it means I can switch off from the game.

Do you think you need a nasty streak to play at the high­est level nowa­days? Yes and no. I’m the type of per­son who will be ag­gres­sive when I need to be – and that’s when I play my best foot­ball. Last sea­son, I tried to pick on Hull City de­fender Harry Maguire (be­low) who is twice my size, so I don’t mind get­ting stuck in. I’ll take my fair share of kicks but al­ways get straight back up again. The op­po­si­tion hate that as they know they can’t af­fect you men­tally. I like to use my body more on the pitch th­ese days, be­cause I feel stronger phys­i­cally and have got a lot of power in my legs.

Foot­ballers can get plenty of stick on so­cial me­dia – how im­por­tant is it to block it out and be men­tally strong? That’s just the way the world is to­day. Peo­ple like to com­ment on ev­ery­thing but, to be hon­est, I don’t re­ally see any of it. One of the most im­por­tant things is to lis­ten to all of the peo­ple around you, such as fam­ily, your coaches and your own thoughts, too. I do what I do for me. I don’t worry about opin­ions of oth­ers who know noth­ing about me.

You have played as both a striker and wide­man for Ar­se­nal – have mod­ern play­ers got to be tac­ti­cally ver­sa­tile? I think so, yes. Around 10-15 years ago ev­ery­body in Eng­land played in a 4-4-2 for­ma­tion. How­ever, now there is more va­ri­ety, which means you’ve got to be able to adapt. When I first started out with Southamp­ton I was a for­ward in a 4-4-2 sys­tem. I learned a lot from watch­ing peo­ple like Michael Owen and Emile Heskey – they had a great big man, lit­tle man part­ner­ship at Liver­pool. I have played in quite a few po­si­tions since I joined Ar­se­nal, but I think the right wing is where I will fea­ture the most this sea­son.

“Last sea­son, I tried to pick on Harry Maguire who is about twice my size, so I don’t mind get­ting stuck in”

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