Arsenal: Wenger on Walcott improvement; bizarre Keane criticism; Ozil contract snag
Arsene Wenger credited Theo Walcott with getting himself back to top form, despite the fact the pair had sit-down talks at the start of pre-season. The former Southampton man scored a first-half brace as Arsenal swept aside Swiss outfit FC Basel with the most dominant 2-0 win you could wish to see. It was important that Wenger’s side backed up Saturday’s euphoric victory over Chelsea with another good performance, the speed at which they sliced through their opponents was reminiscent for the Chelsea game. Walcott has now scored four goals in his last three starts, and has won over the Arsenal faithful with his much improved work rate and defensive output. Speaking after the game, Wenger said:
“It is not the chat [that I had with him] which makes you score goals. He assessed where he stands and then rectified what he had to add to his game. That’s down to him, 95 per cent down to him. The rest came from a first half of top quality, the pace, the quality of our movement, our technical quality. We created many dangerous situations.”
For years, there was uncertainty about whether Walcott was best on the right flank or as a striker. In truth, there is so much positional rotation in Arsenal’s front three that it doesn’t really matter. His first goal last night, just his second headed goal for the club, came as a result of him sprinting into a centre forward’s position while his second was a more typical one-two and finish in the right channel. Walcott has made himself a vital cog at Arsenal currently. With Alexis Sanchez looking to come towards the ball in central areas, the Gunners need a forward who can burst into the space that he vacates.
Elsewhere, Roy Keane was keen to stress caution about Walcott’s performances when speaking on ITV’s Champions League highlights show. He raised a fair point about the number of years it has taken for the penny to drop with Walcott, which is a bit of an indictment on himself and Wenger; who perhaps should have been more demanding of him a bit sooner. The former Manchester United skipper said:
“I wouldn’t get carried away about Walcott. He’s got to keep doing it over the next year or two.
“Tonight was a lovely game for Arsenal, when they’re in that form they’re great to watch. They could’ve score seven, eight, nine goals easily: a joy to watch.
“But the crunch games are coming up for them over the next few months, when the cold nights come in and we’ll see half the Arsenal players with their gloves on.”
It is true that Arsenal have produced good form in the autumn in previous seasons, only to encounter difficulties. Wenger will know as well as anyone that the season is a long one, and maintaining their current form will be difficult. As for the stuff about gloves and cold nights, Keane is an intelligent and astute thinker about the game so this kind of stuff is beneath him. Whether or not players wear gloves is one almighty non sequitur; it makes no difference to performances. This stuff harks back to the dark days when it was thought ‘foreign’ players struggled to play in cold weather.
Finally, The Daily Express are reporting that Mesut Ozil is undecided about whether to sign a new deal. Bild reported yesterday that the playmaker had agreed a bumper new contract at Arsenal. However, Sport Bild today say he has his heart set on a return to Real Madrid. These stories have to be taken with a pinch of salt; agents will be trying to eke out every last penny from Arsenal.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal
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