Wenger fears for Walcott


The Arsenal manager will have a heart-to-heart chat with the forward ahead of tomorrow’s crunch top-four clash against Liverpool.

Walcott was hauled off after 55 minutes of England’s 1-1 draw in Italy on Tuesday night.

It was the latest disappointment in a difficult season for the 26-year-old, who has struggled for game time since returning from a long-term lay-off due to a serious knee injury.

With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out of the Liverpool game with a hamstring strain, and Danny Welbeck a major doubt after sustaining a knee injury on international duty, Walcott could well start tomorrow.

But Wenger said: ‘Yes, I’m worried about Theo’s confidence. He’s sensitive and I’m a bit concerned about the damage that game can have on his mind.

‘He’s not completely there yet (after the injury). But being exposed like that, people have a harsh judgment on him that is not deserved because he does well.

‘At the moment he is frustrated, but that is normal. I will speak with him, but I think he is strong enough.

‘I will see what state of mind he is in. We always have a word, if it is a positive experience or a negative experience, you ask, “How did it go?”. We always speak about the last game.

‘He is not fragile mentally, he is strong mentally but he is disappointed because when you come back from an injury you always think you are ready.

‘He needs patience. He is at the moment not in his best mood.

‘He has big confidence in himself and he has gone through some difficult periods in his life and he has always come out with strength.’

Walcott found himself playing in the No 10 role for England in Turin — a role he is not accustomed to.

And Wenger admitted he was surprised to see the pacy forward in such an unfamiliar position.

‘Have I ever seen him play No 10 in training or anything? No,’ said Wenger.

‘Theo’s strength is the quality of his movements, he wants to go to get on the end of things. He’s not a guy who provides.

‘I don’t think it was the intention of Roy Hodgson to play him there. It’s maybe because Wayne Rooney took the initiative during the game to play higher up and tell Theo to drop back.

‘I didn’t see Roy Hodgson in the game stand up to say, “Walcott, you come and play in midfield and Rooney you go up front”. That’s an initiative they took on the pitch.’

Meanwhile, Wenger insists there are fundamental flaws in FA chairman Greg Dyke’s proposal to increase the number of required homegrown players in Premier League squads to 12.

Dyke believes increasing the number of British players in squads will help contribute to a more successful England team.

But Wenger said: ‘I believe we are in a top-level competition and you earn your right through the quality of your performance rather than your place of birth.

‘Secondly, I’m happy to, and would like to contribute to the quality of the English national team, but you have two questions you can raise before that.

‘First of all between 1966 and 1996 there were no foreign players in England and it didn’t improve too much the performances of the national team.

‘Secondly, if between the ages of 16 and 21 the England youth teams win every single competition in Europe then there is something we have to do because they are not getting their chance at the top level.

‘That is not the case, on the contrary. I think between 16 and 21 the English youth teams, until now, have not performed. So that’s the heart of the problem.

‘Let’s get better at that level, then if there is a problem integrating these players in the top teams, we have to do something about it.

‘I think today you have to be very brave to integrate young players in the top teams because the pressure is very high. I still believe when they are good enough, they play.

‘You speak about Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. Nobody stops the quality, no matter where they are from. So let’s focus on that first.’ – Daily Mail

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