Arsenal: Walcott talks title challenge; Ozil contract wrangles; Chamberlain on game time
Theo Walcott believes the scrappy nature of Arsenal’s last two Premier League wins against Burnley and Swansea shows they have the capacity to fight for the title.
The Gunners sit behind league leaders Manchester City on goal difference only, having been five points behind Pep Guardiola’s side, Manchester United and Chelsea after two games.
Six straight league wins have put them firmly among the pack, and Walcott says they are capable of sustaining it this time around, though warned against the ‘blip’ that seems to occur at some stage of every season.
Many felt Arsenal had passed up ‘their best ever chance’ to win the league last season, as Leicester won the title with all the traditional powerhouses out of the picture. Speaking after their 3-2 win over Swansea at the weekend, Walcott said:
“Again against Swansea, we had to be diligent, be patient at times, but we still got the win even if it would have been nice to take the ball home on a personal note.
“The Burnley match was a game where we had to grind it out. This game, when we went down to 10 men, we tend to lose, to be honest. There’s some things that are slowly getting better.”
Arsenal have been handed a friendly fixture list in October, with Middlesbrough and Sunderland to come, while their rivals have had some crunch games. Needless to say, there will be a period of the season when other sides have the chance to gain some ground on Arsenal; Wenger’s team have to hope they come out on top when the everything evens out in the second half of the season.
The Gunners have had strong patches of form in previous seasons, but it always felt the team was balanced on a very narrow ledge, one key injury away from folding like a deck of cards. This season, there is a layer of players waiting in the wings who haven’t been involved thus far; Per Mertesacker, Gabriel, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud, Lucas Perez and Danny Welbeck.
Elsewhere, Wenger joked that anyone with a good bank should give him a call, as Arsenal seek to tie down Mesut Ozil on a new long term deal. The Frenchman insists Ozil is keen to stay, as other reports have suggested, but the parties remain apart when it comes to the German playmaker’s salary demands.
The club have been hindered by the dramatic weakening of the Pound in recent weeks following the EU referendum result, but if there is a desire from both parties to do a deal one imagines an agreement will be reached eventually.
There is bound to be a flurry of stories regarding his future as agents seek to strengthen their hand in negotiations. The former Real Madrid midfielder is on £140,000 per week currently, and is likely to want north of £200,000. Arsenal can afford this, but it would mean other members of the squad wanting big rises to keep pace.
Finally, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain appeared on Goals on Sunday and admitted that he wants more game time. Chamberlain has only got into double figures once for Premier League starts once in his Arsenal career, and is behind what is now an established front three in Alex Iwobi, Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott.
In 2014-15, he started 16 of Arsenal’s first 20 league games, but produced only one goal and one assist. He struggled for form last season, but was handed a start against Barcelona in the Champions league and started Arsenal’s first four league games this season. He has had opportunities, but hasn’t fitted into the fabric of the team. Chamberlain said:
“I would be lying to say it hasn’t crossed my mind that I need more game time,” he said. “As a footballer you want to play every game, and I’m not happy when I’m not playing, as is everyone on the bench.
“There is going to come a time in my career, and I think I’m approaching it, when I do need to get more regular football but my focus is completely and utterly on playing for Arsenal and breaking into the team when I get the opportunity.”
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