Theo Walcott scored twice as Arsenal put in a dominant home display against Basel in the Champions League. It took the Gunners just six minutes to open the scoring as Walcott headed in from Alexis Sanchez’s cutback. The two Arsenal men linked up again as Englishman Walcott drilled low into the net to complete a swift team move. Basel goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik made good saves to deny Sanchez and Hector Bellerin, with Birkir Bjarnason coming close for the visitors.
Arsenal stunned rivals Chelsea 3-0 in the Premier League at the weekend and impressed again at the Emirates in this Group A encounter. Arsene Wenger’s side are now unbeaten in eight games in all competitions since losing to Liverpool on the opening day of the season. The sublime skill and movement of attacking trio Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Walcott, who already has five goals this season, was too much for Basel to handle and the margin of victory could have been far more emphatic. Santi Cazorla controlled the tempo of the game with 94 passes – more than any other player on the pitch – while centre-backs Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were largely untroubled. Arsenal often start a season strongly before falling away, but if they can avoid major injuries and maintain a settled side, realistic challenges for the league title and the latter stages of the Champions League are not unthinkable.
The Xhaka brothers, Granit of Arsenal and Basel’s Taulant, faced each other again after crossing paths at Euro 2016.
In a quirk of international eligibility, Granit represents Switzerland while Taulant plays for Albania and it was the Gunners man who came out on top on that occasion. And it was the younger Xhaka sibling who triumphed again as his side totally outplayed the Swiss league champions. Midfielder Bjarnason, part of the Iceland side that beat England at the tournament in France, had a long-range effort tipped over by David Ospina, who also saved well from Andraz Sporar late on. Theo Walcott scored his first Champions League double since October 2007 against Slavia Prague. Walcott scored his first headed goal in the competition. Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 11 of Arsenal’s last 16 Champions League goals (four goals, seven assists). Only Barcelona’s Neymar (8) has more Champions League assists since the start of last season than Sanchez.