Belfast Telegraph

Walcott confident Arsenal are back on the up

Theo Walcott believes Arsenal are on track to getting back to their best after seeing off West Ham to pick up their first league win since February.

The England forward hit the second goal in what proved to be a routine 3-0 victory, with Mesut Ozil opening the scoring and substitute Olivier Giroud wrapping up a vital three points for the Gunners.

It was just a fourth win in 11 games in all competitions for Arsenal, with continued protests against Arsene Wenger adding to an unhappy backdrop of late.

Wenger is still yet to announce whether he will sign a new contract to remain as manager or leave at the end of the season.

But his players finally produced a result to ease some of the mounting pressure on his shoulders and, following on from the fighting 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Sunday, Walcott feels things are starting to come good again.

"We had to work for it, it has obviously been a challenging few weeks to be honest," he said.

"We had to get the first goal, when we got the first goal the nerves went away and then we just relaxed and played our football and hopefully it is going to breed a bit more confidence going into the next few games in a busy April.

"We just had to get that first goal, once we got it people calmed down a bit more and everyone was a bit more relaxed playing the football we know is why we play for this fantastic club.

"Everyone just needs to remember how good we are as a team, as individuals. It is coming into motion, you saw some signs at Man City and more today and hopefully it is going to go on and on."

Walcott said the victory was built on keeping out West Ham, with Arsenal having kept just three Premier League clean sheets since the turn of the year.

"We knew we had to get the win today, we know how important it was," he said.

"But more importantly we haven't been defending well as a whole unit, not keeping clean sheets. We wanted to get a clean sheet, simple as that.

"We know we are going to score goals so if we get that clean sheet we will win games, we needed to go back to basics and we did today, everyone defended well together and we were very well structured. When we do that well, everything else comes into play."

Wenger praised the performance of Ozil after the game as the Germany international hit his 10th of the season and laid on Walcott's goal.

Ozil has been on the periphery of games too much recently with Wenger admitting the 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League had hit the World Cup winner hard.

Walcott feels Ozil is now reaping the rewards for his hard work in training as he taps into past experiences to address his form.

Asked if the goal would help Ozil's confidence, Walcott replied: "I wouldn't just say the goals, you could see it was slowly starting to come today.

"Goals always breed confidence in players but Mesut is a fantastic player, he has played for Real Madrid, is a World Cup winner and has been through a lot of ups and downs so there is nothing he can't come back from.

"He has put his head down, worked hard in training and the rewards showed today, as simple as that."

While Arsenal appear to have turned a corner, the defeat for West Ham marked a fifth straight loss as Slaven Bilic's side continue to fall deeper into the fight for top-flight survival.

The Hammers sit 15th in the table, five points clear of the bottom three, and they face two of the teams below them in the next 10 days.

Swansea travel to the London Stadium on Saturday before Bilic takes his side to bottom club Sunderland a week later - with skipper Mark Noble aware of just how important those two games now are.

"We're obviously disappointed with the defeat," he said.

"We know deep down that we have to forget about that as quickly as we can and get a win on Saturday. All our thoughts and efforts now this game has finished are onto Swansea on Saturday.

"In my eyes, it's the biggest game we've had for a long time. We need to get the three points, simple as.

"We have Swansea and Sunderland in the next two and we need points in both of those games to ease the pressure."


From Belfast Telegraph