Theo Walcott doubles up as Arsenal cruise to win over Basle
Group A: Arsenal 2 Basel 0
Theo Walcott’s purple-patch continued as he scored a first-half brace in Arsenal’s Champions League victory over Basle at the Emirates Stadium last night.
Having started their Group A campaign with a workmanlike draw at Paris St Germain, Arsene Wenger’s side were on the front-foot from the off as Walcott found the net twice in the opening 26 minutes to sew up a routine 2-0 victory.
Basle, who have a good record on English soil in Europe, never looked in the game as Wenger also saw Alexis Sanchez, Alex Iwobi and Santi Cazorla star in the final home game before his 20th anniversary as Arsenal boss on Saturday.
Walcott, who admitted on the eve of the contest that he has had a change in attitude to his game also said he needed to repay the faith Wenger had shown in him.
And, having scored in the wins at Hull and Chelsea, he continued to do just that as he opened the scoring early on before adding his fourth in three games later in the half.
Nacho Monreal was the first to test Tomas Vaclik as he latched onto Iwobi’s pass before shooting low at the Basle goalkeeper.
But there was nothing Vaclik could do moments later as Walcott timed his run perfectly to head home Sanchez’s cross and put the Gunners ahead.
It was the same pairing who combined for the second as Walcott exchanged passes with Sanchez before slotting home low into the corner of Vaclik’s goal.
More good work from Walcott saw the England international fly down the right before pulling the ball back to Cazorla, who rolled in Sanchez only for the forward to see his effort well-saved.
Vaclik was keeping Basle in the game and saved again from Hector Bellerin after yet another smart pass from Walcott set the full-back clear.
Wenger’s men scored three in the first 45 minutes against Chelsea at the weekend and could have done the same here were it not for Czech Republic international Vaclik who saved with his feet to keep Sanchez off the scoresheet.
Arsenal’s game lost a little fluidity after the interval but Iwobi should have done better with an effort just before the hour-mark when he arrowed an effort wide of the post.
Basle had offered also nothing in attack but came close to pulling one back as David Ospina, Wenger’s preferred goalkeeper in Europe, was forced to tip Birkir Bjarnason’s dipping shot over his crossbar.
The Colombian flapped at a corner soon after but Bjarnason could only scoop over as the ball fell to him at the back-post.
That seemed to wake Arsenal from their slumber but Sanchez was guilty of spurning a marvellous chance as he guided Walcott’s cross wide when free in front of goal.
The Chilean played well but had endured a frustrating night in front of goal and was again denied by Vaclik in the closing stages.
But the win had long-been secured and Wenger’s ambition of progressing into the knockout stage as group winners remains on course.