ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger tipped Theo Walcott to go from strength to strength after the fit-again forward struck twice to book a Carling Cup quarter-final spot.
Striker Nicklas Bendtner also notched and the Gunners benefited from a Tim Krul own goal as they ruthlessly swept past Newcastle and continued their scoring spree.
A four-goal haul took Arsenal’s tally to a remarkable 43 goals in 14 games this season, while Walcott alone has hit six in as many appearances.
The England youngster’s deadly form is a vast improvement on last season’s four goals from 30 games and, after a brief injury, Wenger believes he is gathering momentum.
“Walcott is more composed in front of goal this season,” he said. “His first touch is better. He is an intelligent boy and because of that he will always improve. He was flying at the start of the season and now he is just coming back from injury. You can see today that he is ready to go to another level.”
Before fine finishes from Walcott and Bendtner, Arsenal needed a slice of luck to take the lead just before half-time, when Magpies defender Ryan Taylor’s goal-line clearance rebounded off goalkeeper Krul and into the net.
If there was comedy about the first, controversy surrounded the second, eight minutes after the interval. Newcastle felt Bendtner obstructed Mike Williamson as Walcott scampered through, but there was no arguing with the dinked finish.
Arsenal were rampant now and Bendtner capped his first start of the season with a super finish, checking inside before crashing high past Krul. Walcott completed the rout two minutes from time when he took advantage of a high defensive line to scurry clear and slot the fourth.
The Gunners’ only concern was a knee injury to full-back Kieran Gibbs.
Hughton job safe, insist Toon chiefs
NEWCASTLE last night attempted to quell growing speculation about manager Chris Hughton by insisting his job remains safe. Bookmakers yesterday stopped taking bets on Hughton leaving the club, who lie ninth in the Premier League. But a Newcastle statement released after the Carling Cup defeat to Arsenal said: “Chris is our manager and will remain our manager, and it is our intention to re-negotiate his contract at the end of the year.” Hughton’s current deal is set to expire at the end of the season.