Theo Walcott turns focus to Manchester United

Theo Walcott would love to show Barcelona just what Arsenal can do should they meet again in the Champions League next year - but knows Arsene Wenger's men must now concentrate on delivering a top performance at Old Trafford.

The Gunners secured their place in the last 16 of Europe's elite competition once again with a somewhat laboured 3-1 win over Group H whipping boys Partizan Belgrade at Emirates Stadium, ending the game with 10 men after Bacary Sagna's late dismissal.

However, as they could only finish runners-up to Shakhtar Donetsk - whom they had thrashed 5-1 at home earlier in the qualifying campaign - Arsenal will not be among the seeds for the knockout stage draw which takes place in Nyon, Switzerland next Friday.

Given domestic rivals Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham all won their respective groups, that means the Barclays Premier League leaders will now face either of Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid or one from German duo Bayern Munich and Schalke.

Walcott was part of the Arsenal team ripped open by Lionel Messi in their quarter-final second leg in the Nou Camp during April, where the England forward had put the visitors ahead.

While Walcott feels were the two sides to face off again it would be a very different prospect, the 21-year-old accepts focus must first be on getting a positive result from their top-of-the-table domestic showdown with United on Monday night.

"If you want to be the best, you have to play the best," said Walcott, who came off the bench against Partizan to make his 150th Arsenal appearance and give the Gunners a 2-1 lead with a well-taken second-half goal before in-form Samir Nasri netted a third.

"We want to go that one step further - if we do get Barcelona, we don't want Messi to do what he did to us last season.

"I would love to go back there and show them what we are all about this season.

"We want to win silverware for the fans because they have waited too long.

"We have improved - new personnel have come in and we have players coming back from injury soon.

"It doesn't matter to us, we will play anyone and try to win the game."

Walcott knows getting the better of Sir Alex Ferguson's men at Old Trafford will be no easy task, despite Arsenal's impressive away form.

"United have not lost in the league yet, so hopefully we can be the first to do that," he said.

"Manchester United are not playing the best, but these are the games where they will step up.

"Yet if they are not playing well and still are second in the league, then we don't want to catch them on a good day.

"But we have just got to go there and play with no fear, express ourselves and then the best performance will come out.

"We need to get something there and the way we are playing away from home, we can beat anyone."

It remains to be seen whether captain Cesc Fabregas will have recovered from his latest hamstring injury to face the Red Devils, with the Spain midfielder insisting he would take no risks by coming back too soon.

Left-back Kieran Gibbs badly twisted his ankle last night, leaving Emirates Stadium on crutches, and the England international faces another frustrating spell on the sidelines.

Wenger could elect to hand Robin van Persie a second successive start at Old Trafford after the Dutchman - back to match fitness following his own ankle problems - produced an impressive display against Partizan, scoring a first goal of the season from the penalty spot.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable