Walcott treble as Arsenal sink Newcastle
Theo Walcott sent a message to Arsene Wenger as the Arsenal forward hit a hat-trick in his side's stunning 7-3 demolition of Newcastle on Saturday.
Walcott, out of contract at the end of the season, faces an uncertain future in north London after Arsenal failed to meet his wage demands, while boss Wenger has been reluctant to play the England winger in his preferred central striking role.
But Wenger has finally allowed Walcott to start up front in recent weeks and the response from the 23-year-old suggests the Gunners should bow to the player's demands to avoid losing yet another star name.
As well as hitting a hat-trick, he provided two assists against Newcastle as Arsenal, with Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski also on the scoresheet, kept the pressure on Tottenham and Chelsea in the race for a top four finish.
The fifth placed Gunners are one point behind Chelsea, who have a game in hand at Everton on Sunday, after their fourth successive league win.
Many supporters were still making their way into the Emirates Stadium when a burst from Jack Wilshere played in Oxlade-Chamberlain but he dragged his shot wide.
After repelling the initial wave of Arsenal pressure, Newcastle slowly found their feet and forced a corner in the 17th minute.
Sylvain Marveaux picked out the unmarked Demba Ba and the Senegal striker should have done better with his header and the ball sailed over the bar.
Newcastle were made to pay as a brilliant through ball from Podolski finally found Walcott in space in the 20th minute and his precise curling finish past Tim Krul was reminiscent of Thierry Henry in his pomp.
Seven minutes before the break, things almost got even better for Walcott as he raced onto another Podolski pass on the edge of the box but this time Krul stood firm.
That proved to be a crucial moment in the half as Newcastle finally broke free of the shackles and produced their first shot on target from Tiote's piledriver that was tipped over by Wojciech Szczesny.
They didn't have to wait long to draw level as a minute before the break Ba's free kick took a vicious deflection off the back of Wilshere's head and diverted into the net.
Arsenal came out determined to put things right after the break. Kieran Gibbs almost restored their lead straight away, only to be denied by Krul.
But the Dutch shot stopper had no chance of reaching Oxlade-Chamberlain's brilliant drilled effort in the 50th minute after he was picked out by Santi Cazorla's pass.
Yet Newcastle levelled again on the hour mark. Gabriel Obertan's cross was going harmlessly towards Wojciech Szczesny until Thomas Vermaelen's touch diverted it to the waiting Marveaux at the back post to tap in.
Undeterred, the Gunners were back in front in the 64th minute as a superb cross by Wilshere was deflected onto his own bar by Fabricio Coloccini and Podolski bundled the ball home.
Incredibly, Newcastle were level for a third time within five minutes as Ba made no mistake from Marveaux's cross to smash home.
But it was Walcott who took over then as he gathered a cutback from Gibbs and forced his shot into the roof of the net to make it 4-3 in the 73rd minute.
Walcott wasn't finished yet as he turned provider six minutes from time to set up substitute Giroud with a brilliant cross.
Giroud struck again three minutes later and, with Newcastle's defence now in complete meltdown, Walcott danced into the penalty area and recovered his footing after a slip to chip over Krul for his hat-trick.