Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted after his side's 4-0 win at Blackburn Rovers that he almost left Theo Walcott out of the team following the teenager's heroics for England. Emmanuel Adebayor claimed the headlines with a superb hat-trick at Ewood Park yesterday, but the contribution of Walcott was every bit as significant as the rampant Gunners swept their hosts aside with a breathtaking display.
Walcott had been crowned a national hero after scoring a hat-trick during England's 4-1 victory away to Croatia in a 2010 FIFA World Cup South AfricaTM qualifier on Wednesday. With Arsenal launching their UEFA Champions League group campaign at Dinamo Kiev next Wednesday, Wenger wanted to rest the 19-year-old.
But an injury to French star Samir Nasri forced the Arsenal manager to use Walcott. His decision paid off as the flying winger produced another eye-catching performance.
"I was thinking about leaving Walcott out, but I thought I'd play him because I wanted to give Nicklas Bendtner a rest," said Wenger. ". We know he can be dangerous, but we have to let him develop."
With Adebayor is devastating form, Arsenal were far too good for Blackburn. The Togo striker had arrived at Ewood Park without a Premier League goal to his name this season, but he left with the match ball after scoring twice in the last nine minutes to add to his first-half effort.
Walcott had teased and tormented the Croatia defence in Zagreb, and he employed his trickery again to tee up Robin van Persie for the eighth-minute opener. He held off a number of challenges before releasing the ball for the Dutch forward to fire beyond Paul Robinson.
This was not quite a vintage performance by Wenger's side, yet the build-up to their second goal at the end of the first half, which sealed Arsenal's first away win of the campaign, was breathtaking. The Gunners players completed 27 successful passes before the unmarked Adebayor headed home Denilson's cross.
Blackburn had their chances, Roque Santa Cruz and Brett Emerton both going close, but the home side lacked Arsenal's clinical finishing. Robinson was beaten for the third time after referee Mike Dean pointed to the penalty spot in the closing stages following Stephen Warnock's foul on Emmanuel Eboue, Adebayor doing the rest.
With Arsenal in complete control, Wenger gave Jack Wilshere his moment in the spotlight. Aged 16 years and 256 days, Wilshere became one of the youngest players in Premier League history after replacing Van Persie in the 83rd minute.
And the teenager was able to celebrate with his team-mates on the pitch as man-of-the-match Adebayor completed the scoring deep into stoppage time with a close range finish.
Blackburn have slumped to fourth bottom in the table after conceding 11 goals in Paul Ince's first four games in charge. But Ince is refusing to panic. "I don't bother with the table at this stage of the season," he said.
"It's still early days and there is a long way to go. The goal just before half time killed us. It was a lack of concentration and suicidal defending. ."