Arsenal showed why the Football Association can only dream of hiring Arsene Wenger to take charge of England as Theo Walcott’s double inspired a swaggering 2-0 victory over Basle in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The FA’s decision to part ways with disgraced England manager Sam Allardyce on Tuesday triggered reports that Gunners boss Wenger is the governing body’s top choice to become the national team’s next permanent coach.
But Wenger admitted several years ago he had ignored the FA’s overtures once before and, on the evidence of Arsenal’s burgeoning revival this season, the poisoned chalice of managing England is extremely unlikely to be a tempting prospect.
Coming five days after a 3-0 defeat of Chelsea that Wenger described as almost perfect, another sublime display showed why the Arsenal fans who called for the Frenchman to quit during a turbulent last 18 months should be grateful he decided to stick around for a 20th year with the Gunners.
Walcott netted twice in the first half at the Emirates Stadium to leave Arsenal, now unbeaten in their last eight matches in all competitions, with four points from their first two Group A matches.
Yet those simple facts don’t do justice to the total mastery Arsenal displayed in a spell-binding first half.
Wenger’s team, told by Uefa to wear their yellow away kit to avoid a colour clash with Basle’s strip, could have been ahead in the opening moments when Nacho Monreal’s stinging strike forced Basle goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik into action.
It took only seven minutes for Arsenal to go ahead as they ripped through the Basle defence in a swaggering move that showed the confidence flowing through Wenger’s men at present.
Santi Cazorla lofted a deft high pass towards Alexis Sanchez, who timed his run perfectly to escape Basle’s offside trap and advanced into the penalty area before looking up to see Walcott arrowing towards goal.
Sanchez’s cross arrived with laser-guided precision and England winger Walcott, showing the renewed desire which has saved a career in danger of imploding, powered between two Basle defenders to bury his header past Vaclik from close-range.