Belfast Telegraph

Aaron Ramsey blow casts a shadow over Arsenal

Birthday boy Aaron Ramsey will miss the rest of the festive period through injury, somewhat overshadowing Arsenal's impressive comeback victory at West Ham.

After four matches without a win in all competitions, the Gunners showed the steely resolve needed if they are to continue their title tilt.

Theo Walcott's brace and a strike from the returning Lukas Podolski saw the north Londoners recover from Carlton Cole's goal against the run of play to triumph 3-1.

It was the ideal start to a run of three league matches in six days and then an FA Cup tie with rivals Tottenham, but one tarnished to an extent by an injury to Ramsey.

The Wales international, who turned 23 on Boxing Day, was forced off in the 65th minute through what manager Arsene Wenger confirmed is a thigh injury.

"It looks like a thigh strain," the Frenchman said.

"For me, I don't know how serious the thigh strain is but the Christmas period is certainly over for him.

"He knew straight away, but we have to see."

"Overall, I feel we controlled the game but felt we had a difficult period where the game could have changed.

"That was in the first 10 minutes of the second half when West Ham scored and they had a header from a cross, which could have been 2-0.

"That was certainly the turning point of that game and after that we had plenty of chances.

"We couldn't take our chances in the first half and we responded very well in second half, in the end winning the game in a convincing way.

"I have confidence in my team but I also worry. That is the nature of the game, you always worry.

"I am proud of the character of this team because they are always focused and try to do well"

Walcott was delighted to see Arsenal return to the top of the Barclays Premier League after he scored twice in a 3-1 win at West Ham.

The Gunners had been winless in four matches and, after a goalless opening half, it was the Hammers who took the lead through Carlton Cole less than a minute after the interval.

The home side dominated the early stages of the second half and looked set to spring an upset but Walcott was gifted a leveller by goalkeeper Adrian before he headed home a second.

Returning forward Lukas Podolski then added a third as Arsenal moved back to the top of the table.

"From our disappointing results in the last few games it's nice to get a good positive away win," said Walcott.

"It's great to be top but it's a very tough league this year, everyone is very tight, a lot of people are taking a lot of points off each other so we've just got to make sure we look after ourselves."

He added: "I think we've been criticised of late for not scoring many goals

"The guys showed great character to come back from that."

Many have tipped Arsenal to fade in the second half of the season as the squad depth of the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea comes into play but Walcott insists there is nothing but confidence in the Arsenal dressing room.

"The mood is great," he added. "We're sitting top of the league, if it's not going to be great, you shouldn't be playing football.

"We enjoy every minute, especially this festive period when the games come thick and fast, you can get so many points.

"Every guy in that dressing room is important to the whole squad and it's very crucial our manager uses his players wisely."

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