Walcott wants repeat performance
Theo Walcott has called on Arsenal to make their victory over English Premier League title rivals Chelsea count - by taking another three points from relegation battlers Wigan tomorrow night.
The Gunners finally ended their hoodoo against the Blues with a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium which boosted their championship challenge and left Carlo Ancelotti's out-of-form side down in fourth place. There has been, though, little time for Arsenal to revel in a first win over Chelsea in six attempts as they head up to the north-west for tomorrow night's clash at the DW Stadium, where they will be without captain Cesc Fabregas after he collected a fifth booking.
"We can't dwell on this result. We could be disappointed if we win against Chelsea and then lose at Wigan," said Walcott, who helped create Arsenal's second goal just after the break and then netted a quick-fire third to put the hosts in command. "All the fans, you could sense the atmosphere, the fans were right up for it, just like the players were and we just didn't let Chelsea play. We were ready and wanted to do it for our fans because in recent years we let them down in these big matches and we just need to build on that now."
While Chelsea may not have presented the same challenge as in previous meetings, Arsenal nevertheless were good value for what could prove to be a big three points. Alex Song swept them ahead just before half-time, before Walcott and Fabregas capitalised on some poor Chelsea defending to put the game beyond the visitors.
England international Walcott was glad to finally see Arsenal come good when it mattered. "It was nice to see an Arsenal team actually do everything right and hopefully we will just continue to do that," he said. "All 11 players defensively were pressing at the right moments and we made Chelsea look quite average at times, but they are such a strong team and will be right at the top come the end of the season."
It was certainly an improved performance for Arsenal from their last Premier League match at Manchester United, when skipper Fabregas claimed they had been "scared of losing" before eventually going down 1-0.
Arsene Wenger's squad returned fresh from their two-week break following the snow postponements to deliver a performance which, if repeated, should see them last the distance in the title race. "(In) the Manchester United game we had spells where we weren't at our best; against Chelsea, that was our best," Walcott observed. "The likes of Barcelona do it every week. We just need to continue to do that."
Walcott explained: "When we have got the ball we are fantastic, but sometimes when we don't it is a different story. Against Chelsea we showed how great we were off the ball - however, we can't just do it in one game."
Walcott had started on the bench at Old Trafford, but justified his return to the starting XI last night with an electric display, giving former Gunner and England team-mate Ashley Cole the runaround.
Praise for Theo
Arsenal manager Wenger was pleased to see his selection pay off. "It was probably one of Theo's best games for us," Wenger said. "I feel he has improved and against Chelsea he has given an assist and scored, and was always a threat. Theo is one of the players we like to go to feet, and he runs behind without the ball. He likes to get in behind and gave us balance."
Wenger indicated he was set to make changes at Wigan in addition to the enforced absence of Fabregas. Andrey Arshavin was left warming the bench last night, and so could come back into the XI, while Abou Diaby - back from an ankle problem - is expected to deputise for Fabregas and striker Marouane Chamakh may also start.
Arsenal saw their slim 2009/10 title hopes extinguished with defeat at Wigan in April, when they blew a 2-0 lead with just 10 minutes left. However, the Gunners have won four of their last five away matches and Wenger is expecting another composed display tomorrow.
Wenger told Arsenal TV Online: "The most consistent team will make it in the end, and that is what is at stake. Let's see if we can turn up with a fantastic performance now on Wednesday night."