Dazzling Arsenal raise Wenger’s England stock
LONDON – If he really wants the once-again vacant England job Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal players provided the Frenchman the perfect showreel in a classy 2-0 defeat of FC Basel to move joint top of Champions League Group A on Wednesday.
Sam Allardyce’s self-inflicted demise after only 67-days in charge of the national team has inevitably given voice to those who say the FA should turn to Wenger — an almost de-facto Englishman after 20 years in charge of Arsenal.
Arsenal’s vibrant display against a club that has got the better of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea in the competition in recent years will strengthen their calls.
Theo Walcott, discarded by Allardyce’s predecessor Roy Hodgson for the woeful Euro 2016 campaign, scored twice before the break as the hosts tore Basel apart.
Walcott combined superbly with Alexis Sanchez for both goals — the first a header from the Chilean’s cross after six minutes and the second a precise shot after a slick one-two with the south American wizard left Basel’s defence standing.
Had it not been for Basel keeper Tomas Vaclik, a rampant Arsenal could have been six up before halftime.
A pre-match poll on the BBC’s website had 66 percent of voters agreeing that Wenger should lead England out of the mess created by Allardyce’s downfall after he was secretly filmed making inappropriate comments in a Daily Telegraph sting.
Wenger said he had been surprised by the chain of events but declined to offer any clues as to what the future may hold once his current Arsenal contract runs out next year.
“I am 100 percent focussed on Arsenal until the end of the season and my priority will always be to this club,” Wenger said. “Nothing will change that.”
Wenger was also coy on whether the in-form Walcott deserved to be part of England’s starting lineup for their next World Cup qualifier against Malta this month.
“When you see the way he played tonight it’s hard to ignore him, but I will leave that to Gareth (Southgate),” smiled Wenger, referring to England’s stand-in manager.
He was more lucid on his side’s form.
“The only regret was that we did not score enough tonight considering what we created. Overall, some excellent football,” Wenger said. “The first half was top quality.”
They have now gone eight matches unbeaten since losing to Liverpool on the opening day of the season and against Basel continued where they left off in a 3-0 rout of Chelsea at the weekend courtesy of another first-half onslaught.
Walcott and Sanchez were irresistible but Arsenal’s threat came from all angles with Mesut Ozil tormenting and full backs Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin marauding forward.
Swiss Granit Xhaka, formerly of Basel, overshadowed his brother Taulant who, like his team mates, could not stem the flow of Arsenal attacks.
Vaclik denied Sanchez with an outstretched arm after he had been played in by Ozil while Bellerin and Alex Iwobi also should have extended the lead.
Basel threatened a couple of times after the break with Birkir Bjarnason, one of Iceland’s Euro 2016 heroes, curling a shot that Arsenal keeper David Ospina clawed over the bar. -Reuters