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Walcott will take his return 'week by week' as Gunners chase fourth








Arsenal forward Theo Walcott will not set himself any ambitious goals as he plots a steady return to full match sharpness.

The England international made his first start in a year in the FA Cup third-round tie against Hull, and produced a few positive runs behind the defence despite lacking a finish in the penalty area.

With his rehabilitation now almost complete - from, first the serious knee injury which shattered his World Cup dreams last summer and then a groin problem sustained on international duty with England in November - the 25-year-old feels achieving small targets can help make the biggest difference.

"I like to work week by week, so I forget about the big picture and the nine months (out). Week by week, hitting the goals and when you have achieved that, you can feel good about hitting something else," Walcott said.

"You need to just come into training with a smile on your face, enjoy it and that's all you can do. I remember when I had one of my injuries before, I came in down in the dumps and rehab seemed to take so much longer.

"You don't want that, you want to come in and feel like you're doing something each day. Even though it might be the same things at the start, you benefit when it comes to the end of it."


With both Danny Welbeck, who has been out with a thigh injury, and Olivier Giroud, serving a three-match suspension, set to be available for Sunday's encounter against Stoke, Walcott could again find himself back on the bench, which could also include German playmaker Mesut Ozil for the first time since October after his knee problem.

Another player uncertain of his place in the starting XI is goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who has found himself at the centre of some unwanted headlines following reports he was caught smoking in the showers after Arsenal's 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year's Day, when he had been culpable for both goals.

Fit-again David Ospina stood in for the Poland international against Hull, but Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had already indicated he was likely to rotate the goalkeeper for the FA Cup tie and so now has a direct choice to make, with Argentine Emiliano Martinez having offered back-up earlier in the season when Colombia international Ospina was injured.

Arsenal are expected to look to add to the squad during the January transfer window.

Legia Warsaw teenage midfielder Krystian Bielik, rated at around £2million by the Polish club, and Uruguayan trailist Federico Valverde appear potential recruits for the future.

However, more pressing is some defensive cover, with St Etienne captain Loic Perrin a player said to be on Wenger's radar, along with Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin and New Zealand defender Winston Reid, who is out of contract at West Ham in the summer.

There have also been reports Arsenal are preparing a shock £60million-plus bid for Real Madrid's Spanish midfielder Isco.

More likely, however, is the impending departure of forward Yaya Sanogo out on loan, although Wenger would prefer an English side rather than a return to France at Bordeaux.