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Thursday 17 April 2014

Walcott strengthens hand with three-goal salvo

Arsenal 7
Newcastle 3

Newcastle United haven't won away from home this season. They conceded seven goals at the Emirates last night so it was easy to see why. On the other hand, they scored three, making many wonder why they have yet to chalk up a victory on their travels.

Alan Pardew refused to answer questions about Alex Ferguson's comments made earlier this week, but his team had demonstrated that they were not a "wee club", that the traditions of Newcastle United are reflected in all they do.

"When it was three-all we should have shut up shop," Pardew complained, although any manager who thinks his team can "shut up shop" at 3-3 shouldn't be surprised when they don't.

The game only became comfortable for Arsenal in the last five minutes when substitute Olivier Giroud scored the fifth and sixth goals before Theo Walcott completed his hat-trick in injury time.

Arsenal led three times and Newcastle had equalised three times. Walcott's hat-trick will lead many to say there are no further questions about his ability to play centre-forward, yet he also failed in some of the requirements of the modern striker when it comes to awareness and linking play.

In fairness to Walcott, he is capable of failing at these things wherever he plays on the pitch.

Wenger believes in the player. "He's done very well. It just typifies what I think he can do, he can play through the middle, I'm convinced of that."

Walcott has certainly strengthened his negotiating position. From Tuesday, he is free to talk to other clubs and he lingered on the pitch at the end of the game, applauding all corners of the ground as his team-mates headed down the tunnel. Farewells to the crowd may be a negotiating ploy in the modern game or Walcott may be leaving.

"The intensity of my desire is exactly the same as before the game. My desire is to extend his contract," Wenger said afterwards.

"I think he loves the club and the club loves him," Wenger said, before adding with a poet's cry, "reciprocity in love is the most difficult thing to find."

Walcott's timing can't be questioned. He opened the Arsenal scoring with a beautiful finish after springing a Newcastle offside trap which was more of a death wish. Walcott cut in from the left before powerfully placing the ball into the far corner past Tim Krul.

Walcott's failings were seen in a subsequent counter-attack when he failed to find Santi Cazorla. Shortly after Newcastle had equalised when Demba Ba's free-kick was deflected by Jack Wilshere into the Arsenal net.

Newcastle finished the first half strongly but they were determined to mess things up. Podolski won the ball from a Newcastle throw-in and it was worked across to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He had been Arsenal's best player in the first half and his finish told of his confidence. He struck the ball hard and it went low past Krul to give Arsenal the lead.

Newcastle had spent the first half trying to release Gabriel Obertan on the left and, in the second, it worked. Obertan ran at Sagna and his cross was deflected off Laurent Koscielny and Sylvain Marveaux had an easy tap in.

Five minutes later, Fabricio Coloccini headed against his own bar in trying to clear Wilshere's cross. Podolski was waiting and headed in from under the bar.

But Newcastle came again. Marveaux ran purposefully at the Arsenal defence. He hit a ball from the edge of the box to Ba at the far post who had an easy finish.

Arsenal went forward, worked the ball across the goal to Kieran Gibbs who got forward brilliantly. Podolski missed Gibbs's cross but Walcott had time to take a touch and finish. Newcastle trailed 4-3 for the second time in a week.

Newcastle were crushed. Pardew had good reason to blame the Christmas programme for their exhaustion especially as Arsenal had gone a week without a game.

Wenger sent Giroud on who added the fifth and then the sixth.

Walcott finished things off. He took a quick free-kick on the left, gathered the ball off Wilshere and headed directly towards goal. He was knocked down but got up and finished. "He belongs here," Wenger said later. Walcott might be starting to believe that he belongs anywhere.

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