Injured Walcott is an 'Arsenal legend' after Spurs gesture
But striker likely to be out for a month after injuring his knee in north London derby
THEO WALCOTT remains an enigmatic and sometimes frustrating presence on the pitch, but he has finally cemented his place in the hearts of Arsenal fans thanks to his two-nil gesture to Spurs supporters as he was stretchered off the field during the Gunners FA Cup derby triumph on Saturday.
The striker came in for plenty of abuse as he was being treated for a knee injury in front of the travelling support. His response, after being loaded onto a stretcher, was to smile and use his fingers to remind Spurs fans of the score.
His actions almost sparked a riot as stewards were forced to hold back incensed Tottenham fans and Walcott and the stretcher bearers were pelted with coins and plastic bottles. But the player is set to avoid an FA charge over the incident. Instead, it is the angry supporters who are being blamed for the unsavoury scenes.
After the game Arsene Wenger insisted that the gesture was not offensive, and Jack Wilshere, who was banned for two games for giving Man City fans a one-finger salute last month, said Walcott's actions would make him "an Arsenal legend".
Despite the furore around the gesture most observers, including Spurs manager Tim Sherwood, suggested the incident could be classified under "banter" rather than anything more sinister. He added that if Spurs fans had thrown coins and missiles it would be a "problem".
The moment was the "cherry on top" for Arsenal on a highly satisfactory day at the Emirates, says The Guardian. However, "Walcott, and the stretcher-bearers, might reflect that it was not the smartest thing he has ever done, given that the Tottenham fans were already wound tightly," adds the paper.
But even though Walcott will avoid sanction for his "innocuous" gesture there could be trouble ahead for both Arsenal and Spurs in relation to the "distasteful" incident, warns the Daily Mail. The FA could yet charge both clubs with failing to control supporters. And the moment revealed the "twisted hatred provoked by one of football's most bitter rivalries... in its full unexpurgated ugliness," laments The Independent.
On a footballing level Arsenal are still waiting to find out how serious the injury to Walcott is, but there are fears he could have damaged a knee ligament, which would sideline him for up to a month.