Walcott's dynamic display confounds critics

Arsenal 3 Burnley 1

While most of the focus was rightly on the stricken Aaron Ramsey following Arsenal's fractious victory at Stoke, Theo Walcott wasn't having the best of times either. Pilloried after his ineffective midweek display for England and struggling for form, fitness and confidence following a series of injuries of his own, the 20-year-old might have retreated into his shell.

Chris Waddle, no stranger to occasional ineptitude on the England flank, said Walcott lacked a "football brain" yet his performance against Burnley on Saturday, particularly in the second half, suggested he has the grey matter and willpower to succeed.

Walcott overcame a nervous opening period, where he avoided and then overreacted to a fair tackle by Burnley's left-back Daniel Fox (perhaps forgivable so soon after Ramsey's horrific leg break) and distributed the ball poorly, to become Arsenal's go-to guy after the interval. He scored his first goal since October, terrorising Fox and teeing up Nicklas Bendtner for a string of chances, none of which was accepted.

Arsène Wenger said he hoped Walcott hadn't read the negative coverage following the Egypt game at Wembley, but he had. "Chris Waddle? I heard what he said, but I don't listen to people on the outside of football," Walcott said. "I'm always the country's biggest hope or biggest disappointment." His hat-trick in Croatia last season inflated expectations and, given the concerns about Aaron Lennon's injury problems, he is a genuine contender for the World Cup, as opposed to the novelty pick four years ago. "At such a young age getting the World Cup thrust on you without playing in the Premier League is difficult to cope with," he said of his time in Germany.

"A lot of people believed in me. But I've had experience of the competition now, I played in the Under-21s and the Premier League. There is more to come, but those experiences will move me on to great things.

"You want to perform as well as you can in every game. I've had so many injuries this season, people don't realise how hard it is to come back from setbacks. Maybe if I keep performing like that it will shut people up."

Arsenal moved level with Chelsea after a fourth successive League triumph and, with winnable games against Hull, West Ham, Birmingham and Wolves coming up, should continue to attract backers for their title charge. Cesc Fabregas scored the first after a one-two with the excellent Samir Nasri, converting the Frenchman's return pass from close range before limping off with a hamstring problem. He is a doubt for Arsenal's Champions League tie against Porto tomorrow. "He has a little chance [of playing]," said his manager. "But if it is more than a 50 per cent chance his hamstring goes I will not take the gamble." Fabregas is the one player Arsenal cannot do without.

In the Spaniard's absence Nasri dictated play, although David Nugent's lobbed equaliser, when he embarrassed Mikaël Silvestre and Thomas Vermaelen, briefly disrupted Arsenal's rhythm. Walcott added a second after an hour, cutting in from the right and finishing sweetly with his left and Andrei Arshavin did likewise for the third goal in added time.

Stoke, Wolves and Wigan lie in wait for Burnley but, after one win in 17 Premier League outings, there really aren't any easy games. "The games against Stoke and Wolves are massive," Nugent said. "We've got to be aiming for at least four points out of six." And then some.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Almunia; Eboué, Silvestre, Vermaelen, Clichy; Nasri, Denilson; Walcott, Fabregas (Diaby, 38), Rosicky (Arshavin, 60); Bendtner (Eduardo, 74). Substitutes not used: Sagna, Fabianski (gk), Traoré, Eastmond.

Burnley (4-5-1): Jensen; Mears, Cort, Carlisle, Fox; Paterson (Thompson, 73), Cork, Alexander (Bikey, 65), McDonald (Elliott, 53), Eagles; Nugent. Substitutes not used: Duff, Blake, Jordan, Weaver (gk).

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Burnley Carlisle, McDonald, Elliott, Paterson.

Man of the match: Nasri.

Attendance: 60,043.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Researchers have said it could take only two questions to identify a problem with alcohol
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style