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Wenger admits he almost axed hero Walcott

SoccerNews in English Premier League 14 Sep 2008

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted after his side's stunning 4-0 win at Blackburn that he almost left Theo Walcott out of the team following the teenager's heroics for England.

Emmanuel Adebayor claimed the headlines with a superb hat-trick at Ewood Park on Saturday, but the contribution of Walcott was every bit as significant as rampant Arsenal swept Blackburn aside with a breathtaking display.

Walcott had been crowned a national hero after scoring a hat-trick during England's 4-1 World Cup qualifying victory over Croatia in Zagreb on Wednesday.

With Arsenal launching their Champions League group campaing in Ukraine against Dynamo Kiev next Wednesday, Wenger wanted to rest 19-year-old Walcott.

But an injury to French star Samir Nasri, coupled with Wenger's reluctance to thrust Nicklas Bendtner into the action, forced the Arsenal manager to use the teenage flyer.

His decision paid off as Walcott produced another eye-catching performance.

“I was thinking about leaving Walcott out, but I thought I'd play him because I wanted to give Nicklas Bendtner a rest,” said Wenger.

“The problem when you score three goals for the national team is that everyone expects you to score three again. We know he can be dangerous, but we have to let him develop.”

With Adebayor is devastating form, Arsenal were far too good for Blackburn.

Togo international striker Adebayor had arrived at Ewood Park without a Premier League goal to his name this season.

He left east Lancashire with the match ball after scoring twice in the last nine minutes to add to his first half effort.

Walcott had teased and tormented the Croatia defence in Zagreb and he repeated his box of tricks as he teed-up Robin van Persie to open the scoring in the eighth minute.

He held off a number of challenges before releasing the ball for the Dutch striker to fire beyond Paul Robinson.

This was not quite a vintage performance by Wenger's side yet the build-up to their second goal at the end of the first half, which sealed Arsenal's first away win of the campaign, was breathtaking.

Arsenal's players completed 27 successful passes before the unmarked Adebayor headed home Denilson's cross.

Blackburn had their chances, Roque Santa Cruz and Brett Emerton both going close, but the home side lacked Arsenal's clinical finishing.

Robinson was beaten for the third time after referee Mike Dean pointed to the penalty spot in the closing stages following Stephen Warnock's foul on Emmanuel Eboue, Adebayor doing the rest.

With Arsenal in complete control, Wenger gave Jack Wilshere his moment in the spotlight.

Aged 16 years and 256 days, Wilshere became one of the youngest players in Premier League history after replacing Van Persie in the 83rd minute.

And the teenager was able to celebrate with his team-mates on the pitch as man-of-the-match Adebayor completed the rout deep into stoppage time with a close range finish.

Blackburn have slumped to fourth bottom in the table after conceding 11 goals in Paul Ince's first four games in charge.

But Ince is refusing to panic.

“I don't bother with the table at this stage of the season,” he said. “It's still early days and there is a long way to go.

“The goal just before half time killed us. It was a lack of concentration and suicidal defending.

“I felt sorry for our keeper Paul Robinson because he hasn't done anything wrong and he's conceded eight goals in two games.”

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