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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Wenger hails steel shown by Walcott in Spurs scalping

Arsene Wenger was proud of the way Theo Walcott recovered from a poor start to lead Arsenal to an incredible north London derby victory yesterday.

The England international endured a frustrating opening period against Tottenham, who racked up a two-goal lead by the 34th minute thanks to strikes from Louis Saha and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie pegged Arsenal back before half-time, although calls remained for Walcott to be replaced at the break.

However, the winger followed up a Tomas Rosicky effort with a second-half brace to complete a resounding 5-2 victory at the Emirates Stadium.

"The crowd were starting to get on his back and you wonder if you're doing him a favour if you leave him on," Arsenal boss Wenger said of Walcott.

"Considering the rest of the team were high on confidence, I felt that he had the qualities that we needed -- a player who can be direct, go behind the defenders. Nobody else is like that.

"He is a very direct player. You know he can sometimes miss a first touch but still, considering the balance of our team, I felt it was important to keep him in our side."

Wenger was quick to praise the fighting spirit Walcott and his team-mates displayed against Tottenham and backed his side to finish above their north London rivals.

"It is still possible, if we keep our run going," the Frenchman said. "Why not? But before the game it was (said to be) impossible. I always thought it was possible, but it would be down to consistency. Everybody in the Premier League can lose points."

Despite the many positives, victory was tarnished somewhat by both Rosicky and Thomas Vermaelen picking up knocks.

"Unfortunately, we have some bad news for Rosicky today and Vermaelen as well," Wenger said.

"Vermaelen has an ankle problem and Rosicky a back problem. I don't think they will be available for international duty on Wednesday.

"Will they be available for Saturday (to face Liverpool)? There is a big doubt."

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp admitted Tottenham need to bounce back from yesterday's defeat -- but conceded the international break could scupper that.

Redknapp highlighted the importance of an immediate response next weekend when they welcome Manchester United to White Hart Lane, but admits this week's international fixtures will make it a more difficult challenge.

"We've got to come back like we did earlier in the season," the Spurs boss said.

"We need to bounce back and recover. The problem is that everyone is going to various parts of the world to play international games.

"They don't come back until Friday so there's hardly anyone in all week. It's a crazy build-up to massive games at this stage of the season and us playing Manchester United next week."

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