Saturday 22 October 2016

Theo Walcott: Arsenal need to bounce back after Champions League nightmare

Theo Walcott celebrates
Theo Walcott celebrates

Theo Walcott has challenged Arsenal to put their nightmare Champions League trip to Dinamo Zagreb behind them by returning to form against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

The Gunners had striker Olivier Giroud sent off as they crashed to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at the Maksimir Stadium.

Manager Arsene Wenger had made six changes to the starting XI, which included leaving Walcott on the bench.

The England forward's energetic performance as a second-half substitute, scoring a well-taken late goal on the break, was perhaps the only positive on a night of frustration in Croatia.

Walcott, though, is confident that having such another big game coming so quickly can only be a positive.

"We need to move on now," he said. "We have got a big, important game at the weekend, but everyone will be very disappointed.

"However, we can't blow one result and say 'it's the end of the season' - we have still got a long Champions League run (ahead).

"We have had setbacks before and have managed to bounce back from them.

"We have been in this tournament for 18 years now so we've had a lot of experience and we know how to deal with setbacks.

"We should be able to come back stronger.

"The manager will make sure that it's put to bed in the changing room and that it will stay there. We need to reflect on this game and move on quickly."

Captain Mikel Arteta, recalled in a defensive midfield role, believes Arsenal cannot use squad rotation as an excuse for failing to beat a team which had not won in the Champions League since 1999 and never progressed from the group stages.

"We had a strong team out there to win the game and we created enough chances to at least not lose, even with 10 men, " the Spaniard said.

"The boss has to manage the squad with the number of games we have in the next couple of weeks."

Arteta, who was out for a long spell with injury last season, missing the FA Cup final victory over Aston Villa at Wembley, accepts Arsenal will need to produce a swift response against a Chelsea side boosted by their impressive 4-0 midweek European victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv.

"It doesn't help, before a big game," he said.

"We have to react quickly. We're quite good at that. We've done it in the past. Sometimes when you have disappointment in the body it's good because you find a good reaction.

"Tomorrow is a new day, a time to be positive and take good things into the next game because we can beat Chelsea."

Goalkeeper David Ospina came into the side as Petr Cech was rested to the bench.

The Czech, though, is expected to be back between the posts for Saturday's match against the club he left in the summer.

Wenger said: "Ospina is a very, very good goalkeeper and he has shown that again (in Zagreb).

"Cech has not played a full season (for Chelsea last year), so I am trying to give him some rest mentally because for goalkeepers it is the same as outfield players."

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