Theo Walcott warns Arsenal teammates against complacency ahead of Ludogorets Champions League visit to The Emirates
01:06 18 October 2016
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Theo Walcott has warned his Arsenal teammates not to be complacent ahead of their Champions League match against Bulgarian opponents Ludogrets at The Emirates on tomorrow evening.
Walcott – who has won acclaim for his improved Arsenal performances this season resulting in six goals in all competitions already – told his team to be on the lookout against Georgi Dermendziev’s side.
Ludogorets, who won their summer qualifiers against Mladost Podgorica and Red Star Belgrade, and the play-off against Viktoria Plzeň– became the first Bulgarian team to qualify twice for the group stage of the tournament – and have already proven themselves to be stiff opposition in the North Londoners group.
The team who hail from Razgrad, in north-eastern Bulgaria, took an early lead against PSG and returned from Basel with a point during their first two games in Group A – prompting Walcott to caution his colleagues of their threat by saying: “We can’t be too complacent because it’s really important to win now.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like against Ludogorets.
“It’s a fixture we should win, we know we should win that and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for it.
“There are six points available against them – we know that but I’ll be digging into the players and letting them know that there are no givens in football these days.
“We struggled against Olympiacos in times gone by at home. You would hope the way we are playing football, the goals we’ve scored this season already, I don’t think they’ll look forward to playing us that’s for sure.
“I’m really looking forward to the game.”
Reflecting on his team’s hard-won 3-2 victory against Swansea City on Saturday the two-goal hero added: “The most important thing was the three points.
“It was nice to get the goals, I should have scored three but it was more about the three points.
“It was a crazy game. We were fairly comfortable with 11 men. We probably took a while to get going but after international break, everyone travels the world to come back, you don’t have much time to prepare for a game.
“We probably started off a bit sluggish, whereas we’ve been starting off games really well, and maybe that came as a bit of a surprise – but then we started to play the football we wanted to play, and it’s disappointing to concede two cheap goals.
“But when you go down to ten men after Granit Xhaka was sent off and there’s 20 minutes to go, you have to dig deep – and that’s what was really important looking at the other results.
“I am happy with the goals. I’m happy with the general play and defensive play as well perhaps even more than the forward part of my game.
“I already know how well I can go forward but there’s also other bits to do and I’ve been doing that this season.”
The jet-heeled wide man – who employed the services of a personal trainer over the summer has been reaping the results of his new fitness regime with an impressive run of form for Arsenal that leaves him on 92 goals for the club. He added: “It seems to be going in at this moment in time and I’m enjoying playing for football.
“It would be nice to get to 100 goals for Arsenal. It’s a long season ahead. I’d be very disappointed if I don’t reach 100 this season – but then again I’d rather the team performs and we win something rather than a personal goal.
“That’s my main goal. If I try to do my best for this team hopefully the team can benefit. I’m looking too far ahead here which I don’t like to do but there’s some good signs already.”
With his club joint top of the Premier League Walcott analysed the chances of winning a first title since 2004, saying: “With the squad we have, if we keep players fit, with players coming back, then who knows.
“You can’t really call the Premier League this year. It’s so unpredictable.
“With the way Leicester have performed, it shows anyone can win it. It’s that mad, you can’t really call any games in the Premier League this year.
“That’s why we love the Premier League and love being involved in it because it is the best league in the world.
“But do you know I don’t look at the table? I genuinely don’t.
“I know it’s a really simple and easy thing to say but that’s genuinely the case. There’s no point in wasting energy on other teams when we control that.
“We’ve been in this situation before. There’s always some sort of blip but hopefully we’re not going to have that this year.”
With Walcott unfairly bearing the brunt of criticism after two disappointing England performances – he certainly wasn’t the only player who underperformed for the Three Lions this month – he added: “It’s always difficult when you go from your club to international. You play with different players, you have to get used to the way you play all over again and it is difficult to get into the rhythm of things.
“Obviously I was disappointed but then again I’ve come back, forgotten about it, I need to concentrate on Arsenal and that’s all I’m about now.”
With six successive Premier League wins and impressive club performances this season – and with his team well placed in Europe with four points out of six ahead of entertaining Ludogorets tomorrow evening at The Emirates – no wonder Walcott is quietly confident.
Confident but not complacent.