Wenger not worried about Walcott
Published 02/04/2015 | 22:46
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes Theo Walcott's frustrating night with England in Turin will not leave the forward's confidence "damaged" over the closing weeks of the season.
Walcott produced a low key display after being handed an opportunity to start up front with Roy Hodgson's side for the friendly in Turin on Tuesday night.
After struggling to receive any real quality service, Walcott later dropped back into the number 10 role behind captain Wayne Rooney and eventually was substituted by Everton's Ross Barkley early in the second half.
Walcott missed the best part of a year following a knee injury which wrecked his 2014 World Cup dream, and since then has seen his return hampered by a niggling inflamed groin problem.
The 26-year-old has found himself on the fringes of the Arsenal side in recent weeks, often used as an impact player from the bench.
Asked if he felt the fallout from his performance with England could hamper his confidence, Wenger replied: "Theo wants to do well, he is sensitive and I am a bit concerned about the damage that (Italy) game can have on his mind."
The Arsenal boss continued: "Theo's strength is the quality of his movements, he wants to go to get on the end of things, he is not a guy who provides.
"It was complicated game for the (England) strikers because Italy defended with three centre-backs, two players in front of the two centre-backs and England played all in there so there was no room, no space.
"I don't think it was the intention of Roy Hodgson to play him there (as a number 10). It is maybe Rooney took the initiative during the game to play higher up and tell Theo to drop back.
"I haven't seen Roy Hodgson in the game standing up to say 'Walcott, you come and play in midfield and Rooney you go up front'. That is an initiative they took on the pitch."
Wenger, though, has no doubts Walcott will soon be up to full speed once again.
"Theo is not fragile mentally, he is strong mentally, but he is disappointed because when you come back you always think you are ready," added the Arsenal boss, who hopes to extend the player's contract.
"I don't worry about Theo because he is not completely there yet and I told you that a few times he has been out for a year with a very bad injury and he is coming back."
While he may have full belief in Walcott's abilities, Wenger concedes players can suffer from a crisis in confidence.
"Being exposed like that (to the media spotlight with England), people have a harsh judgement on him that is not deserved because he does well. For me, he is on course to come back, but he is not completely there," the Arsenal manager continued.
"Theo needs patience, he is at the moment not in his best mood.
"He is not a fragile type. 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.
"At the moment he is frustrated, but that is normal."
Wenger expects Walcott to bounce back quickly, and could throw him straight into the side against Liverpool on Saturday.
"I think he is strong enough. I will see what state of mind he is in," said the Gunners boss.
"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."