Arsene Wenger insisted on Tuesday there was never any danger of Theo Walcott leaving Arsenal despite a reduced role with the Gunners last season.
The England international started just 15 league games and scored five goals in the 2015/16 season.
But Walcott, 27, has already matched that goal tally this term following a double in Arsenal’s win over Swansea City on Saturday.
Arsenal manager Wenger, speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Ludogorets, said of winger Walcott: “Look, I haven’t spoken to anybody because I was not ready to let him go. I always wanted to keep him.
“What I’ve seen of him is that he lets the passion for the game come out of his body. That’s what you want from him.
“I’ve felt that since he’s played with more freedom, maybe he lets his feelings come out a bit more and is less calculating: ‘Can I do that or can I not do that?’,” the veteran French boss added.
“He plays with more freedom and more desire. I think he has a less restricted attitude and that shows you that he is a completely different player.”
Arsenal have won their last six matches in all competitions and could welcome Francis Coquelin back into the starting side on Wednesday.
He featured as a substitute against Swansea following the knee injury he suffered in last month’s win over London rivals Chelsea.