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Football: Gunners 'have forgotten' Thierry.

Byline: By Duncan Bech

THEO Walcott insists Arsenal have "forgotten" about Thierry Henry amid their blazing start to the season. And the 18-year-old is eager to forge his own reputation as a Gunners legend after his stellar display against Slavia Prague invited caparisons with the Frenchman.

Arsenal have thrived since Henry's summer departure to Barcelona with Tuesday night's 7-0 Champions League thrashing of the Czechs bringing their 12th successive victory. Arsene Wenger felt off-loading Henry would force the club's youngsters to shoulder more responsibility - and the likes of Walcott, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie have responded in mesmerising style.

"In a way everyone was disappointed when Thierry left," said Walcott. "But at the same time we have sort of forgotten about him at the moment with us doing so well. However, he is doing brilliantly at Barcelona and I wish him all the best."

Walcott's second goal against Slavia was trademark Henry, dashing past defenders into the area and steering the ball with the outside of his foot into the far corner.

Wenger admitted the goal - the second of two clinical finishes by the England striker - had a "touch of Henry about it".

But while Walcott is flattered by the comparisons with the former Gunners idol, he is determined to follow his own path at the Emirates Stadium.

"People are going to compare the second goal to Thierry but it was my own goal," he said. "I trained with Thierry for a year and a half. It was brilliant to train with him every day and take bits out of his game, but I'm my own player.

"People are always going to compare me to Thierry - the way I run and everything - but as I keep saying I will be my own player."

Wenger is beginning to see a major return on his initial pounds 5m investment in Walcott, who arrived at Ashburton Grove in January 2006. A remarkable twist awaited four months later with Sven-Goran Eriksson selecting him in England's World Cup squad - even though he had not played a competitive game for the Gunners.

Eriksson then declined to use him and Walcott's frustration was heightened by his subsequent peripheral role in Arsenal's first-team squad. But his exploits against Slavia have filled him with a renewed sense of optimism as he seeks to nail down a regular place in the side.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Manuel Almunia insists he is unfazed by the criticism levelled by Arsenal rival Jens Lehmann. Out-of-favour Lehmann plunged his Gunners future into doubt by revealing he felt "humiliated" by his ongoing omission from the side.

The 37-year-old keeper was also disparaging of Almunia in an interview with German pay-tv station Premiere, declaring: "Almunia hasn't shown that he can win us matches just yet.

"I have been through this situation once and know how the other keeper is situated mentally. I can't imagine he will handle this."

But Almunia, who has tightened his grip on the number one jersey with a run of six clean sheets in the last seven matches, has taken the outburst in his stride.

"I'm not worried about that (Lehmann's comments)," said the 30-year-old.

"Nothing can disturb me and nothing can turn my mind on to other things. I don't want turn my mind to other things. I only want to win games for Arsenal."

CAPTION(S):

COMING GOOD: Theo Walcott.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 25, 2007
Words:559
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