Arsenal kicked off their pre-season tour in style against Indonesia Dream Team on Sunday, winning 7-0 thanks after Walcott scored the opener.
The 24-year-old winger spoke, along with boss Arsene Wenger, after the game and stated his belief that it’s about time the team repaid the manager’s faith in them.
“This season I’m looking forward to us challenging for the title. That’s our main goal. The manager’s shown so much belief in us all and we need to repay that faith,” said the Englishman.
It’s interesting to note that Walcott said much the same (almost word for word) back in February. The Gunners kicked on after a turbulent start to the season and managed to secure a Champions League qualifying place ahead of North London rivals Tottenham on the last day of the season.
However, whilst their run-in was better than any other team in the league, it is clear that the manager and the team are under pressure to win silverware and challenge for titles after 8 years without a trophy.
The boss endured undoubtedly his toughest term with Arsenal this year, under increasing pressure and criticism from some sections of the fanbase and the media.
Wenger has indeed shown faith in the players – Walcott himself has been handed a three-year contract extension worth £100,000 a week, matching the club’s top earner Lukas Podolski.
The manager lost faith in players such as Andrei Arshavin who was released from the club this month as well as Marouane Chamakh who looks increasingly likely to move on this summer.
Players like Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey had difficultly cementing their status in the team in previous seasons but came through as two of the Gunners’ most valuable assets on the pitch this year.
With the fans calling for the manager to repay their faith in him with trophies, Walcott’s reiteration that the players need to achieve much the same for him couldn’t have been timelier. A 7-0 win in pre-season is a good start but Arsenal must kick on and the players need to take the pressure off the boss next term if they want to see him remain at the club.
The boss has opened ‘positive’ talks over a new contract but he has insisted his decision to stay will be made based on the club’s achievements next season – just as the players’ future has always rested in the manager’s hands, his future now rests in theirs.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald