Walcott: Chelsea win not to blame for draw
Theo Walcott has rejected the notion that Arsenal's laboured performance against Marseille last night was due to a hangover from their exertions at Chelsea. The Gunners came into the match on the back of a hard-fought 5-3 victory at their London rivals, where talisman Robin van Persie netted a hat-trick.
The Arsenal captain started the Group F tie with Marseille on the bench, but even his introduction after an hour could not help his side secure the victory that would have seen them progress to the UEFA Champions League knockout stages. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted after the 0-0 draw that the players were perhaps emotionally drained from the win at Stamford Bridge, although Walcott disagreed with the assessment.
"I wouldn't say it was either [a mental or physical hangover] really," he said. "We did all our duties right and mentally we were very strong. Sometimes when we tend to concede goals we switch off and I think everybody was alive on that today. Maybe just going forward we were quite light, but you have to give credit to Marseille. They came here and did a job. They used the width of the pitch very well and we found it tough at times to retain the ball. We can't always play as we did at the weekend.
"It has been a lot of games that we haven't lost in now and that is another positive. It was always going to be tough. Obviously a lot of people will have been thinking about that game at the weekend. Marseille are very strong defensively and the positive we can take from this is a clean sheet yet again. It was disappointing we didn't score any goals considering how many we scored at the weekend, but you cannot score all the time and it is probably a fair result in the end."
Despite a near full house, the atmosphere was rather flat at the Emirates Stadium except for the smattering of Marseille fans. While the fact neither side managed sustained attacks, but Walcott said ultimately Arsenal are willing to play however is necessary to progress. He said: "It doesn't matter how you play, as long as you win the games, get a positive result. That is all that matters. Nobody remembers the dirty 1-0s and the 0-0s, it is all about the finalists. It doesn't matter how you get there. As long as we get there, that is all we can think about.
"Obviously we want to finish at the top and we still have a lot to do. But we won't be focusing on the weekend, we will be focusing on the weekend. That is what we do at this club, we take every game as it comes. They are coming up think and fast now and we need to be physically fit and mentally strong as well. Bring on the games, we enjoy playing our football."
As well as leaving Arsenal in a decent position, the draw gives Marseille a good chance of reaching the knockout stages. Captain Steve Mandanda was proud of his side's performance and believes it could be the start of an impressive run. "It was a solid game and there was good content," he told OMtv. "If we had taken better shots we might have been able to score, but overall it was a good game from us.
"There was a collective awareness and the confidence is also returning. This is a quality group and at some point it could go on a run. We have good momentum and we should keep going because it can quickly switch the other way."