14 February 2016

Walcott and Welbeck discuss their super-sub scores...

The dressing room had the air and appearance of a cup-final. Having defeated Leicester in stirring, stunning fashion, exhausted and exhilirated players whooped and celebrated as if they had won it all. All that was missing was the champagne. As players milled about, two Gunners in particular made eye contract across the room. Each let a slow grin dawn on his face, a grin that was part celebratory, part relief. Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott, all but forgotten, had reappeared with a vengeance. It was only natural that they sought each other out to cherish the triumph.

     "Feo."
     "Welbz! You're back!"
     Welbeck rubbed the back of his head as in disbelief. Before he could respond he thought back to the long months he'd spent rehabbing, waiting, and hoping. Little had he known just how dramatic his comeback would be. "I—yeh, Theo, I guess I am. Talk about leavin' it late, though, right?"
     Walcott smirked. "You are most definitely back! You might get MotM for that goal even if you only played—what was it, 20 minutes?"
     "Twelve. And I needed all of them, didn't I?"
     "That you did, lad; that you did! Still, twelve minutes for one goal has got to make you the most lethal scorer in the Prem! Hazard's played the full season and hasn't netted once. Guess that makes you better than Ronaldo, eh?"
     Welbeck beamed before crumbling just a bit. He looked away.
     "Hey, Danny? Danny boy—c'mon now, lad. I know how hard it is. I've been there. You work so hard only to see it all slip away. You wonder if you'll ever play like you could. Hell, you wonder if you'll ever even play. Ever. At all. But look at you now, man! Top of the world today!"
     Welbeck turned back, his face screwed with emotion. He couldn't quite speak.
     "Hey, Danny, look at it this way—it's a damned good thing you didn't get a haircut on Saturday..."
     At this, Welbeck threw his head back and roared at the ceiling. It had been, after all, a long, frustrating spell on the sideline. Finally, finally, he was back on the pitch. To see his former squad struggle so mightily might seem like petty schadenfreude, but, dammit, it felt good. However, Welbeck couldn't ignore his compatriot's own resurrection.
     "What about you, Feo? Clinical as ever, mate! That finish was brilliant! Without it, I'm still on the sideline and we drop all three. You, my friend, you are back!"
     It was Walcott's turn to get a bit overwrought. He had, after all, fought through his own injury only to struggle to find any kind of form. He was not deaf to the suggestions that he be sold if he couldn't perform to the level his weekly wages suggest.
     "Feo? You alright?"
     Walcott looked up at Welbeck. Some might say there was a tear in his eye. Others call them schmucks. Suffice it to say that Walcott was more than a bit emotional. "Danny," Walcott glanced around, "I won't lie. It's been rough. I go out there, I do what I can, but the pressure's high. People still say I'm Henry's heir."
     "Forget them! You just go out there and play. Do you see what you do to defenses just by being out there? They're terrified! You don't even need to score to change a game."
     Walcott looked at Welbeck, dumbfounded.
     "You've forgotten that, haven't you? You think you need to score some kind of brilliant counter-attacking goal like Henry used to. Nope. Look at your goal today—their defense was set, but you found space and that half-volley was perfect!"
     Walcott rubbed the back of his neck as he contemplated how far he and Welbeck had come. He looked around at giddy Gunners celebrating a win he had done so much to make possible. He swallowed. Hard. "We're not done, Danny."
     "I know, mate. Still twelve to play, and—"
     "No, I mean us. You and I. We're not done."
     Welbeck looked puzzled.
     "We're just getting started. This is a beginning for us, a resurrection. People doubt us, they wonder whethere we'll ever be as good as promised. We had our moments today, you and me, but anyone who thinks we achieved anything doesn't know. Yeah, there are still twelve matches to play, and we still need Leicester and Tottenham to drop points. Come to think of it, you and I, we're like Arsenal itself. Always on the cusp of something great but always falling short. I tell you, Danny, I think we—you, me, this squad, everyone—we're on to something special."
     Welbeck's eyes widened as he pondered Walcott's words.
     "This was just one match, Danny. We still trail Leicester by two, and we're level on points with Tottenham. Their goal difference is decisive. On the strength of this result, we can and must run the table—including White Hart Lane and the Etihad."
     Welbeck's eyes narrowed in grim determination. "Let's do it, then."