Tuesday 25 July 2017

Theo Walcott admits fiery half-time row may save Arsenal's season

Olivier Giroud celebrates with Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil
Olivier Giroud celebrates with Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil

Matt Law

Arsenal players ripped into each other during a fiery half-an-hour crisis meeting in a desperate bid to save their season.

The dressing-room summit was led by senior quartet Petr Cech, Per Mertesacker, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta, who feared Arsenal were in danger of letting their chance to finish the season with silverware slip away.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and his staff were not aware of the meeting, which allowed the players to be brutally honest with each other without the threat of being asked to calm down.

Tempers and voices were frequently raised during the get-together that was arranged after the defeat to Swansea City, with Arsenal players being told to stop pointing the finger at each other and to step up and accept responsibility.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 02 : A dejected Olivier Giroud of Arsenal walks back with his team after Swansea City scored to take the lead Photo: Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Players were also challenged over how much they really wanted to win the Premier League and whether or not they were showing enough desire and fight to get over the line.

Despite the fact Arsenal are eight points behind leaders Leicester City, the players made a vow to give absolutely everything until it is mathematically impossible to win the title.

Goalkeeper Cech was able to relay some of his experience from winning four Premier League titles and the Champions League with Chelsea, while defender Mertesacker lifted the World Cup with Germany.

The meeting appears to have had the desired effect, as Arsenal stopped their three-game losing run by drawing with 10 men against Tottenham Hotspur and won their FA Cup replay at Hull City on Tuesday night.

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Aaron Ramsey scores the first goal for Arsenal Photo: Reuters

Arsenal players last season held a far more sedate meeting that inspired a winning run and saw them win the FA Cup for the second successive season.

Theo Walcott admits the players would swap a third FA Cup to win this season’s Premier League title and confirmed the crisis meeting had taken place.

“We are not going to lie - we know as a unit it has been tough and we all had a good chat amongst us behind closed doors, without even any of coaches or the manager knowing about anything,” said Walcott.

“I think it is important that as a team [to know] we have got it in us. We just have to produce it more often.

“You had a sense of the Tottenham game especially, when you go down to 10 men in a big game like that, the belief and the character was there.

“The never-give-up spirit was there as well. In the derby matches, they could be the matches that turn your season and we may have turned the corner maybe.

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Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech celebrates victory after the Barclays Premier League match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth

“We have quite a lot of experienced players in the dressing room. It came from Cech, Mikel, Per and Tomas. We have four good old heads there.

“I’d like to keep what was said among ourselves, but it was very important. We have had a reaction from it anyway.

“The manager probably knows about it anyway - he’s got ears everywhere at the club! The manager respects the players’ privacy and what’s happening personally amongst us all. It was a meeting to express how everyone was feeling basically and it worked.”

Walcott helped Arsenal secure an FA Cup quarter-final date with Watford on Sunday with two goals against Hull, but the England international admitted the Premier League title remains the Gunners’ number one priority.

“As you get closer and closer, there is a sense of belief that we can do it and create history which would be a great achievement for everyone,” he said. “But we all know what we want this year and we would swap it in a heartbeat without a doubt.

“The competition has been pretty good for us. People say we have had some kind draws, but you can see in the cup competitions that anyone can beat anyone.

“We have been conceding too many goals cheaply as a unit. We haven’t been scoring enough. This was a big confidence boost for everyone.

“We want to stay in this competition because it is massive for us. We want to make those history books and try and push on to Wembley and do it on the third occasion, but we have got a big test against Watford first.”

Telegraph.co.uk

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