Theo Walcott reveals 'kick up the backside' issued by Arsene Wenger that sparked Arsenal victory over Wigan

The sides were level at half-time before the Gunners went on to win 4-1

Theo Walcott has revealed how a half-time blast from manager Arsene Wenger gave Arsenal a “kick up the backside” to get their push for Champions League qualification on course again as they went on to beat Wigan 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners had little room for error against the FA Cup winners on Tuesday night, who themselves needed to win to keep alive hopes of beating the drop.

Everything was going Arsenal's way after an early goal from Lukas Podolski before a superb 25-yard free-kick from Shaun Maloney just before the interval threatened an upset.

After goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny had saved Arouna Kone's close-range effort at the start of the second half, Arsenal finally moved through the gears again and put the result beyond doubt with three goals in the space of eight minutes just after the hour.

Walcott, who swept home a crucial second from Santi Cazorla's cross, maintains the players were left in no doubt about just how they had to improve by some strong words from Wenger in the home dressing room.

"The manager gave us a kick up the backside," said the England forward.

"It is great that the manager has that passion and it got a bit more out of the players.

"It is massive to be in the Champions League. We all knew our big it is, not just for the manager, the fans, the players and the club itself."

Walcott maintains the thought of being the first Arsenal side in a generation to miss out on Champions League football has driven the squad back into the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

Arsenal now head to Newcastle on Sunday with destiny back in their own hands, a point ahead of Tottenham following a superb nine-match unbeaten run since losing at White Hart Lane on March 3, and could yet finish above Chelsea should the Europa League finalists slip up against Everton.

Walcott, who took his tally to 21 on Tuesday, has every confidence Wenger's men can now finish the job at St James' Park and deliver a 16th successive shot at Europe's elite club competition.

"We just have great experience in knowing what to do when the time is right. It is funny. It happens every year," said Walcott.

"We tend to finish very strong. I think it is just because the players want it so much.

"It (Champions League football) is big for the future of the club and the players. We have been in it for the last 15 years and we don't want to be the players who are not part of that.

"We just need to show that in the mid-season and at the start and we could hopefully be even higher than we are and not have this situation we are in.

"But it is very positive, and we will be fighting strong on Sunday."

Arsenal could be without midfielder Mikel Arteta because of a calf injury which could mean calling upon Jack Wilshere, the England international set for summer surgery to clear up a niggling ankle problem.

Whichever side he selects, Wenger is confident they will have what it takes to secure what would be a remarkable end to a campaign which had started so badly.

"We have dealt with nerves for a long, long time now. It is natural of course, because it shows that [the players] care, but this team is on an exceptional run and has an exceptional spirit," Wenger added on Arsenal Player.

"We have 70 points, the target is 73, so let's just go with the spirit and desire we have and I think we can do it."

Premier League chiefs are, meanwhile, crossing their fingers that they are not presented with a major headache if Arsenal and Chelsea finish the season level on points, goal difference and goals scored.

That scenario could happen if the Gunners win 2-1 at Newcastle and Chelsea draw 0-0 at home to Everton, which would make the sides joint third.

The London rivals would then have to face a play-off for the automatic Champions League qualification spot, in itself causing a scheduling nightmare with the Blues set for an end-of-season trip to the United States and England set for two friendly matches.

PA

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