Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal ready to increase Manchester City's woes, says Walcott

By Jim van Wijk

Theo Walcott yesterday insisted that Arsenal do have it within themselves to re-raise their game when title-chasing Manchester City come to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

The Gunners' seven-match winning run in the Premier League was brought to an unceremonious halt by Saturday's 2-1 defeat at relegation battlers Queen's Park Rangers.

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, admitted that his players had lost duels all over the pitch, and with Tottenham Hotspur making the most of their opportunity to beat Swansea City at White Hart Lane on Sunday and go back level on points in the battle for third place, it was a bad weekend for the Gunners.

Walcott, who scored Arsenal's equaliser at Loftus Road is, however, in no doubt the Gunners will be ready to show their strength of character this weekend. Victory for the Londoners could all but end City's title hopes, if Manchester United have extended their lead to eight points after the day's early kick-off – coincidentally, at home to QPR.

"I think that we can deal with pressure when it is thrown upon our shoulders," Walcott said. "The manager always takes it on his back, but as players we can cope with that now because we had that tough period.

"We had a lot of injuries, things weren't going our way and Tottenham were 10 points ahead, but we dealt with that, we continued playing our football and completely turned it around. When people play at their full potential it makes the job so much easier. We need to learn to do this more often."

Walcott added: "We are learning to grind out results now. The Everton game, for example, saw us play very well for 20 minutes, but after that it was all Everton. But we still won 1-0 and that is what we need to do more often. We have real character in the squad, a lot of leaders and captains, and that helps us."

Arsenal have not lost at home since being beaten 2-1 by Manchester United on 22 January. Walcott believes the Emirates Stadium can again prove "a fortress" on Sunday.

He said: "The fans expect us to win every game, and we expect to go out there, play our best and we feel we can win every game. The Emirates is starting to become a fortress, which is what we want it to be.

"That is with the help of the fans, they develop that. Away fans and players don't like to come to the Emirates, especially over the last few months. It helps us players, it is like having an extra man on the field."

Arsenal played a behind-closed-doors friendly yesterday afternoon, against Birmingham City. Several of the first-team squad were involved in the 1-1 draw, including Johan Djourou, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Yossi Benayoun, Marouane Chamakh, Gervinho and goalscorer Ju Young-park.

Although the young midfielder Jack Wilshere is continuing his recovery from a stress fracture to the heal, the England international, 20, was never scheduled to feature in yesterday's action.

Belfast Telegraph


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