The key feature of Arsenal's victory over Chelsea on Monday was not the clinical finishing nor the intricate passing, but the organised and disciplined way they restricted the champions to just one effort on target.
Theo Walcott earned the praise of manager Arsène Wenger for the excellence and intelligence of his goal-scoring display. The England winger, however, said afterwards that the work Arsenal did without the ball was the cornerstone of a victory that explodes the perception that Wenger's side fail to deliver against their biggest rivals.
Walcott said: "All the lads have been working so hard in training and the boss as well. Everyone's been talking about the defensive side of the game, when we haven't got the ball. When we've got the ball, we're fantastic but when we don't it's a different story. But against Chelsea we showed how great we were off the ball.
"They've got some fantastic players, this Chelsea team, and we never switched off. We were just ready. The boss told everyone we needed to do our defensive duties right, we needed to show the fans and put 100 per cent in. Everyone was just buzzing."
The challenge, according to Walcott, is now to bring that level of defensive intensity to every single game, starting with today's journey to Wigan Athletic. "But we can't do it in one game, we need to do it in every game," he said. "It's difficult to do throughout the whole 90 minutes but against Chelsea the whole team had so much energy and we managed to do that."
Walcott is enjoying one of the best spells of his career, his goal against Chelsea – a fine strike past Petr Cech low into the bottom far corner – taking his tally for the season to nine.
Walcott said seeing the commitment of David Beckham when he trained with Arsenal for a spell last season was a lesson that practice really does make perfect. "I've been practising shooting every day in training," he said. "It doesn't matter how old you are if you practise after training. I remember when David Beckham came to train with us, he still practised his free-kicks. Me growing up to see that, it was great. I learned from that.
"I've been practising my crossing and finishing when I can after training – when they let me because I don't want to kill myself. It's just something I've worked on and hopefully it can continue because I've missed a lot of the season so far, so I've got nine goals and I'm pleased with that and hopefully that can continue."
Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, influential in the victory over Chelsea, is banned from today's game at Wigan, after he was booked in Monday's London derby, his fifth yellow card of the season. Wenger's side have unwanted memories of their last trip to Wigan, at the end of April, when they were 2-0 up but allowed the home side to score three times in the last 10 minutes in a defeat that ended their title hopes.Reuse content