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Give our Theo time: Wenger

Arsene Wenger is confident Arsenal will soon again see the best of England forward Theo Walcott.

The Gunners head to Aston Villa tonight looking to bounce back from the FA Cup exit at Stoke and maintain their challenge for the Premier League title.

Villa have their own English talent pressing for a World Cup place next summer, with the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and James Milner all hoping to be on the plane to South Africa.

Much has been expected of Walcott, signed by the Gunners as a 16-year-old, since he was a controversial inclusion for the 2006 World Cup squad, before going on to mark his arrival with a hat-trick against Croatia during September 2008.


However, a succession of injuries have limited Walcott's impact since that stunning performance in Zagreb.

The 20-year-old -- who played for England U21s in their run to the final of the European Championships last summer -- has managed only three starts in the Premier League this season, and looked off the pace against Stoke.

Wenger, though, has every confidence Walcott will soon be flying once again. "There is no player in the world who can be out for two months, come back and be outstanding. It is not like you switch an engine on and off in the car. It demands competition," said the Arsenal manager.

"The most important thing for Theo now is not to be injured for five or six weeks. Then you will see a different Walcott."

Milner has worked his way into the England squad following a consistent spell with Villa. Wenger believes Walcott will also develop quickly over the next couple of seasons.

"Theo is 21 (this year). Milner is 24 -- give him (Walcott) three years and then you will see," said Wenger.

"There is a massive difference between 21 and 24 -- that is where you see the evolution of a player.


"People forget how young Theo is. I believe he has improved a lot, but this season he has been unlucky.

"You cannot be at the top of your game with three games in six months. He needs a bit of luck."

After resting several key players for Sunday's cup tie, Wenger will send out his strongest possible squad at Villa Park for the start of what could be a defining period of Arsenal's Premier League campaign, with games also against Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool before the resumption of their European challenge.

"We have a good level of confidence and know that, with so many big games, psychologically it is important to go in with a high level of confidence, so every result has an influence on the next one," said Wenger.

"Is it make or break? I make it a good opportunity to strengthen our position in the league. That is how I see it."