Per Mertesacker has revealed there used to be a heated rivalry between Theo Walcott and Hector Bellerin to be Arsenal’s top speedster.
Walcott’s speed was easily his most notable attribute even he first arrived as a 16-year-old in 2006, long before Mertesacker and Bellerin entered the scene. There were even rumours that he was quicker than Arsenal’s star man Thierry Henry.
But the winger found himself a challenger in the form of Arsenal academy graduate Bellerin.
Aside from his unique sense of fashion, the Catalan full-back quickly became renown in the Premier League for his incredible pace. He, in fact, broke Walcott’s 40-metre record by 1/100th of a second in 2014.
And now Mertesacker, who was never much of a speedster himself due to his tall frame, has revealed the training ground battles between Walcott and Bellerin that followed as they fought for supremacy.
“Hector and Theo Walcott were locked in a constant battle for clocking up the fastest sprint numbers at Arsenal,” the now-Gunners academy manager told the Athletic.
“It was a big rivalry — a bit like (sprinters) Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson in the 1980s.
“I always did better at those running tests than people expected, over the first 10 metres at least.
“I only needed three long steps to get there. Over 30 metres, it was more difficult for me.
“But Hector and Theo could not take being second-best.
“If one of them finished ahead by second or so, the other one would insist on trying again to do a faster time. Hector was just that little bit faster.”
Walcott ended a 12-year spell with Arsenal in January 2018 for a move to Premier League rivals Everton. While Bellerin is working his way back to full fitness after a cruciate ligament injury sidelined him for 240 days.