Walcott: Real Arsenal are back
Theo Walcott believes the real Arsenal finally showed themselves again in the 3-0 demolition of West Ham United.
The Gunners had been well below par in both their previous two outings, snatching a last-minute draw at home to Leeds United in a third-round FA Cup tie before then losing the Carling Cup semi-final first leg 1-0 at Ipswich Town. However, there was to be no repeat against the Premier League strugglers yesterday as Arsenal, with Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri back in the starting XI, were at their free-passing best.
The Irons were carved open on 13 minutes by Walcott down the right, with Nasri's clever step-over drilled home by Van Persie, before the Dutchman returned the favour as the England forward doubled Arsenal's lead. Van Persie completed the rout from the penalty spot on 77 minutes after Walcott was tripped by Wayne Bridge, who had a debut to forget after his loan move from Manchester City.
Walcott is in no doubt if Arsene Wenger's men continue to find such form, they will be difficult to stop. "That is not the Arsenal we know in the last couple of games. No disrespect to Leeds and Ipswich, but we should be getting better results," he said. "In the last two matches, mentally we weren't right, but that's out of the way now."
Arsenal clearly enjoyed themselves again yesterday, and Walcott feels the camaraderie within the squad can help them finally turn potential into trophies. "We all get on," he said. "The mood's great, we are enjoying it and are enjoying playing together. We do have the odd little row which you need and that happens in every good dressing room. If you don't have that it's not healthy.
"We are learning from each other, we have had so much experience playing together for the past few years and it's paying off - but we have got to turn that into silverware. This could turn into a great year for us. In recent times, we have come to West Ham, been bullied off the ball, their fans have got on our backs and been right on us."
Walcott opened himself up for criticism when he admitted diving in an attempt to win a penalty against Leeds, before then being pulled back as the referee did point to the spot, which captain Cesc Fabregas converted. The 21-year-old, however, insisted: "I have got no regrets about what I said. I am an honest player, I want to be honest with my team-mates, Leeds and the manager and all the staff. If I am going to be punished for being honest then I can't win."
Walcott added: "People say that if you get the slightest touch you should go down and when you do go down they have a go at you for going down, so you can't win. But I am not bothered. If the referee's going to punish me or any other players, then I can't do anything about that."
Arsenal left ten-goal Marouane Chamakh on the bench yesterday while Andrey Arshavin replaced Walcott late on. The England forward believes the Gunners possess "the strongest" frontline in the league. Wenger revealed he is likely to rotate again for Wednesday night's replay at Leeds.
"Our success depends on the way the whole squad can focus on the different competitions," the Arsenal manager said. "I believe we have the quality no matter what I do on Wednesday to qualify, it is just how much we are able to focus on the competition. The timing is not the best, but it is down to us because we could have beaten Leeds at home. We didn't manage to do that, but now there's no reason why we should give up. It is important we go there with a positive attitude."