By Chris Harris
Theo Walcott believes that Arsenal's ability to sustain a high tempo for 90 minutes could see them past Barcelona next week.
The European champions put on a masterclass in the first half at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night and, although Manuel Almunia kept them at bay for 45 minutes, Barcelona got the goals they deserved after the break when Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck twice in 13 minutes. Arsenal looked dead and buried at that point but Walcott's 66th-minute introduction ignited them and the substitute reduced the arrears before Cesc Fabregas slammed home a late penalty to earn a 2-2 draw.
Arsène Wenger's side finished the stronger having been second-best for much of the game and, according to Walcott, their fitness levels could be decisive when the teams reconvene in the Nou Camp next Tuesday.
“Barcelona did play well for 60 minutes, but then died off for the last 30," said Walcott.
"Playing at that sort of tempo is very hard to do for the whole game. We are a very fit team and we came right at them. It will be a very tough game but if we frustrate them and get an early goal their fans will be right at them. It will be a great game for the neutral.
"We need to play our football, get the ball down, keep it and frustrate them at times - like they did to us, especially in the first half. They created a lot of chances and if it hadn’t been for our goalkeeper they could have scored a few more."
Arsenal will probably need Manuel Almunia to be at his best in the second leg as well to quell the threat of Lionel Messi, Ibrahimovic, Xavi et al, and they will have to pull off a famous victory without their inspirational captain, Fabregas. The injured midfielder is suspended after collecting a booking on Wednesday night but Walcott believes Arsenal can overcome his absence.
"Cesc is a fantastic player for us, we always want him to play when he can and hopefully the injury won’t be too bad," he said. "But we have great players who can come in - he didn’t play against Porto and we still won 5-0."Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source