WALCOTT CONTINUES FINE FORM AS ARSENAL DISPATCH BASEL IN LONDON
Arsenal were in fine form Last night against Swiz side Basle,it took just seven minutes for the Gunners to shift into cruise control on Wednesday night. Even then, Basle could not get near them. In this mood, not many could in all honesty.
If you thought Saturday’s first-half demolition of Chelsea was special, then find you should have seen last night’s performance.
Pace, power, solidity, work rate with a sprinkle of that trademark Arsenal flair. It was all on show here at the Emirates Stadium. In the end a brace from the re-born Theo Walcott was enough to secure victory for the Gunners as they built on their impressive draw at Paris Saint-Germain.
But it should have been more than 2-0, a lot more, Arsenal’s wastefulness the only glitch in what was otherwise an excellent night’s work
For years, Arsene Wenger’s been saying this group of players are on the cusp of something special.
For years, they have let us all down. Maybe, just maybe, it is time for us to sit up and take notice.
This team’s detractors will point to Wednesday night’s opposition. And of course, there’s credence to that argument. Arsenal should be dispatching teams of Basle’s calibre, despite their excellent record against English teams.
But it was the controlled nature of this display that resonated; a control that hasn’t always been so apparent in recent Arsenal teams.
David Ospina replaced Cech in his now almost customary first-choice role in Champions League.Arsene Wenger followed through with his promise to play the Colombian in the Champions League, while Granit Xhaka replaced the injured Francis Coquelin as he faced his brother Taulant, who lined up for Basle.
Arsenal started last season’s Champions League campaign in poor fashion, losing their first two games before scrapping through to the group stages on the final match-day.Not without its consequences though,as they drew Barcelona in the next round.
Wenger could do without such drama this season. For all intents and purposes, this encounter was done and dusted in seven minutes after a move that was incisive and clinical in equal measure.
Santi Cazorla, deep inside his own half, found Alexis Sanchez down the left flank with a quite exquisite pass. The Chilean’s first-time cross was just as majestic; so too was Walcott’s assured header as he left Basle defender Eder Balanta trailing in his wake before giving Arsenal the lead.
Wenger rose to his feet with a beaming a smile, a grin that hasn’t left his face since Saturday’s destruction of Chelsea.
Only an inspired last-ditch save from Vaclik prevented Sanchez from making it 3-0, as the Chilean reacts to his blocked shot.
Wenger’s smile would have broadened in the 26th minute as Arsenal doubled their advantage. Once more, Sanchez created and Walcott finished. Once more the move was flawlessly clinical.
Walcott picked the ball up 40 yards from goal, played a quick one-two with Sanchez and the England forward was in on goal. There was a time when Walcott would have snatched at this sort of chance. Not any more, not this Walcott. A quick look up and bang. The 27-year-old hit an accurate angled shot past Tomas Vaclik that cannoned off the post before rippling the net.
By this stage, it was a case of how many. By the end of the first half, it should have been six.
Hector Bellerin, Mesut Ozil and Sanchez all missed gilt-edged chances to rub Basle’s faces in it.
But the Gunners could afford to be wasteful. They were creating chances at will and the Swiss side looking turned over.
he openings kept coming for the Gunners at the start of the second half, Sanchez unselfishly choosing to locate Walcott for his hat-trick instead of shooting after some horrendous defending Marek Suchy.
Alex Iwobi was next to miss, firing narrowly wide from 14 yards after a searing individual run.
Mohamed Elneny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs were all introduced during the closing stages as Wenger started preparations for Saturday’s trip to Burnley.
Sanchez should have scored Arsenal’s third in the 67th minute but prodded inches wide.
In the end it could have been 10, Arsenal were that dominant. They now sit top of group A with 4 points, joint leaders with PSG who beat Ludogerets.
Victory in their next 2 clashes against Ludogorets should ensure passage into the knockout stages for a 17th consecutive year.
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Ospina 6.5; Bellerin 8, Mustafi 7, Koscielny 7, Monreal 7; Cazorla 7.5, G Xhaka 7; Walcott 8.5 Oxlade-Chamberlain 70), 6 Ozil 7.5, Iwobi 7 (Elneny 70, 6); Sanchez 8.
Subs not used: Cech, Gibbs, Gabriel, Perez, Reine-Adelaide.
Scorer: Walcott (7, 26)
BASLE (3-5-2): Vaclik 7; Suchy 5.5, T Xhaka 6, Balanta 6; M Lang 6, B Bjarnsson 6 (Delgado 79, 5.5), Zuffi 6.5 (Elyounoussi, 5.5), Franson 6.5, Traore 6; Doumbia 6 (Sporar 57, 6), Steffen 6.
Subs not used: Vailati, Gaber, Hoegh, Calla.
Booked: Suchy, Elyounoussi.