Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Arsenal must be better or Barcelona will batter us again: Walcott

Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott has labelled Barcelona's visit to Arsenal tomorrow night as his biggest game of the season.



The England winger was part of the Gunners side who were dumped out of the Champions League by the Spanish giants last season and is desperate to claim revenge.

Walcott made a big impact when the sides met in the quarter-final first leg at the Emirates last year, scoring within two minutes of coming on as a second-half substitute.

Having gone 2-0 behind and been outclassed in the first-half, Walcott's goal revitalised Arsenal, who went on to draw the game through a Cesc Fabregas penalty.

A 4-1 defeat at the Nou Camp ended their hopes of progressing to the last four of the competition, but Walcott thinks Arsene Wenger's side are a much improved prospect this time around.

“We're looking forward to it, it's going to be a great, great battle,” he said.

“It's one of the games you want to play in and hopefully the result can be different from last year.

“I believe we can do much better than last season; we can't do worse to be honest.

“It's going to be an open game, but these days when we lose the ball we try to get it back quicker.

“That's what we did against Chelsea and Manchester City and hopefully we can take that into the Barcelona game because it's a massive one this season, the biggest one I'm going to play in.”

Reflecting on Barca's Emirates visit last year, Walcott was quick to recall his 69th-minute goal and warned he is planning to have an even greater impact on proceedings this time.

“As a substitute you want to make a reaction straight away and I think I surprised them with my pace,” he said.

“There's only so long they could last for, they lasted about 70 minutes, but they couldn't last 90 minutes.

“I think I surprised Maxwell, came up behind him and tucked it away.

“That inspired us to get the result we wanted and I want to be doing that from the starting line-up now.”

Key to Arsenal's hopes of toppling the Primera Liga champions will be the potency of Robin van Persie.

The Holland striker has made up for lost time since returning to the side after an all too familiar injury lay-off,.

Van Persie is in a rich vein of form, having scored 11 times since the turn of the year.

He also has four in his last two matches, against Newcastle and Wolves and Walcott is delighted to have him back.

“It's great to see him back fit,” said Walcott.

“He's a great player and I link up well with him. He's banging in the goals now and making up for the time he missed.

“He's a dream to play with.”

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