Walcott hat-trick gives Wenger FA Cup final headache
LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger faces a selection headache ahead of next weekend’s FA Cup final against Aston Villa after Jack Wilshere and hat-trick hero Theo Walcott fired the Gunners to a 4-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
The hosts blew West Brom away with a four-goal blitz in the first half which ensured a third-placed Premier League finish and secured their place in the Champions League group stage next season.
A series of injuries to Walcott and Wilshere have confined the pair to the substitutes’ bench for most of the season, but the England internationals were in scintillating form as Arsenal ended a barren run of three home league games without scoring.
“Every chance we created we scored in a convincing way, the first half was of top quality,” Wenger told reporters.
“After halftime, we tried to keep it going but eased off. Overall, we did the job well and finished the season on a high, and now we can focus on the FA Cup final.”
Wenger refused to be drawn on his team selection for next Saturday’s match, saying: “I cannot tell you what I will do next weekend, but you can see that some players are in good shape.”
Olivier Giroud has been Arsenal’s main striker of late but Walcott, usually a winger, was given a runout with the Frenchman rested.
Walcott put Arsenal ahead in the fourth minute in his first league start since mid-March with a swerving strike which flew into the top corner from a tight angle inside the area.
He doubled the lead 10 minutes later when he stabbed home from eight metres out and Wilshere put the result beyond doubt in the 17th minute with a stunning half-volley from just outside the area which rocketed into the top right corner.
Walcott completed a first-half hat-trick in the 36th minute, latching onto Santi Cazorla’s sliced shot to tap in from close range at the far post after yet another spell of mesmerising first-touch football from the hosts.
West Brom pulled a goal back on the hour mark when Gareth McAuley headed home a corner, but the standout moment of the second half was a standing ovation from the Emirates’ faithful for Walcott when he was taken off for Giroud.
“I have always said he (Walcott) can play through the middle because he has good movement and good finishing and he did that well today,” Wenger said.
“He has been out for a year… in football it is a long, long time and it takes a while to come back to your best.”
Wenger said he hoped both players would remain at the club following media transfer speculation surrounding Wilshere’s future and Walcott’s contract negotiations. – Reuters