The former England international says he fielded offers from two of the Gunners’ main Premier League rivals during his first spell at Southampton
Walcott enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence after graduating to Southampton‘s senior squad at the age of 16 in 2005.
The winger became the Saints’ youngest ever player and goalscorer during his debut season with the first team, attracting attention from Arsenal in the process.
The Gunners forked out an initial fee of £5 million to bring Walcott onto their books in January 2006, and he went on to become a key member of Arsene Wenger’s squad.
The former England international scored 108 goals in 398 games for the Gunners, getting his hands on three FA Cups in the process, and established himself as a cult figure among supporters despite never quite managing to live up to his early potential.
Walcott’s 12-year stay at Emirates Stadium came to an end when he joined Everton in 2018, and he is now plying his trade at Southampton once again after returning to the south coast on loan last October.
However, his career could well have taken a different turn had he not elected to join Arsenal 17 years ago, with Chelsea and Liverpool having also been eager to bring him onto their books while he was making a name for himself at St Mary’s.
“Chelsea came in, so did Liverpool and Arsenal. It was one thing that my idol was there – Thierry Henry. Plus Arsene Wenger gave so many opportunities to young players,” Walcott told talkSPORT.
“I just thought I couldn’t say no to them and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
“As soon as I walked in, the first person I saw was Henry. I thought, ‘Bloody hell!’ I looked so starstruck. Then Robert Pires comes in, then Freddie Ljungberg, Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole. I was like a kid with his autograph book.
“I’ve never changed from that little kid up to now.”
Walcott went on to insist that he considers Robin van Persie to be the best player he ever played alongside ahead of Henry, having linked up with the Dutchman in the final third to great effect between 2006 and 2012.
“The best team I’ve played in was when Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie were on song with each other and me in there as well,” he added.
“I remember one season I set up around 14 of Van Persie’s 30-odd goals. For me, them two in a team, with me as well, was one of the best. That’s including England.
“My greatest team-mate would have to be Van Persie. For me, he was the best finisher I’ve ever seen, he was better than Thierry Henry, he made it look so easy.
“If you gave it to him, he would score for you. He was a dream to play with, I don’t think there will be a player like him ever again.”