Theo Walcott is improving as a striker for Arsenal, says Alan Smith

Theo Walcott of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's first goal against Arsenal
Image: Theo Walcott scored Arsenal's first goal at Leicester

Alexis Sanchez may have scored a hat-trick but Theo Walcott's performance against Leicester City will have given Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger real satisfaction, says Alan Smith.

Chile forward Sanchez broke his 2015/16 duck with a superb treble to help the Gunners romp to a 5-2 win at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

However, Walcott's opener - his fifth in all competitions for club and country this season - and his all-round play impressed Sky Sports pundit Smith, who says the England international is showing he can deliver in a central role.

"Walcott's the real story from that win," Smith told Sky Sports.

"We knew that Sanchez was going to come good. He took a little bit of time to score after a busy summer but it was great to see him click into gear.

"However, there was so much disappointment from the Arsenal fans about Arsene Wenger not getting in a centre forward in the summer, and you can understand that.

Leicester 2-5 Arsenal

Leicester 2-5 Arsenal

Read out match report.

"Theo has always wanted to play through the middle, and I think most of us have had doubts as to whether he could do it. But what he needs is a run in the side to be able to learn the intricacies of the position, the runs to make, the hold-up play.

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"He'll only be able to do that by getting a run in the side and it seems Arsene Wenger is willing to give him that. He wouldn't be willing to do it if Theo wasn't playing well and scoring goals, but he is.

"Theo is totally different from Olivier Giroud, so it's a nice contrast to have. Depending on the opposition you can pick either."

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Theo Walcott says Arsenal played with patience and freedom as they dispatched Leicester 5-2 at the King Power Stadium

Walcott has missed a number of good opportunities this season but former Arsenal striker Smith says the 26-year-old's finishing is improving as his confidence increases and has been pleased with his progress.

"It comes down to confidence with his finishing," said Smith. "If he thinks, 'I need to be scoring today or else I might be losing my place' that can make you tighten up a little bit. You need to have the faith of your manager and the confidence to go out there and be nice and relaxed when you do get chances.

"It seems that he's getting towards that point now which is very encouraging."

If he thinks, 'I need to be scoring today or else I might be losing my place' that can make you tighten up a little bit.
Alan Smith on Theo Walcott

Smith also believes Walcott's style of play suits Arsenal's approach. However, he highlighted the importance of under-fire Giroud netting a late confidence-boosting strike, as well. 

The France forward has come in for criticism this term but will be a crucial player for Arsenal this season, says Smith.

"Walcott is not one of those that leads the line with his back to play," Smith explained. "He's somebody that is always looking to get in behind.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Olivier Giroud of Arsenal celebrates his team's 5-2 win in the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and
Image: Olivier Giroud netted a late goal against Leicester

"But that's fine because of the way Arsenal play. They can dominate possession in the final third with the likes of Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil and Sanchez, who keep the ball very well, and from that possession, Theo can make his runs.

"As for Giroud, he's had some tough times for France and people doubted his ability but he's got a very good goalscoring record for Arsenal and is totally different to Theo Walcott.

"The club will need him over the next seven or eight months without question."

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