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Wenger: Walcott to return 'stronger'


Arsenal's Theo Walcott. Picture credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Arsenal's Theo Walcott. Picture credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Arsenal's Theo Walcott. Picture credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger is in no doubt that England forward Theo Walcott has the character to return "as strong as ever" from the knee injury which shattered his World Cup dream.

The 24-year-old is set to be sidelined for six months after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage when making a defensive tackle in the FA Cup third-round win over Tottenham on Saturday.

Wenger, though, is confident Walcott's "balanced" personality can help recover fully from such a devastating setback.

"Theo is handling it as well as you can when you have had such a shock because he is mentally strong, is very balanced as a person and he can put it into perspective," the Arsenal boss said. "We know that he will have the dedication and the serious attitude to come back as strong as ever.

"He has surgery and then it's rehab. You know that it is six months and that you hope it all goes well. The only thing I can say is it's very sad news for us and above all for him."

Wenger was given a fitness boost last night as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his return from injury.

The 20-year-old midfielder had not played since the opening day of the season because of a knee problem, but came through 45 minutes for the U21s against Fulham unscathed.

Mel takes over at West Brom

West Brom have confirmed Pepe Mel as their new head coach on an 18-month contract.

The 50-year-old Spaniard moves to the Hawthorns as a permanent replacement for Steve Clarke, who was sacked last month.

Mel's most recent job was with Real Betis, who dispensed of his services on December 2.

Sporting and technical director Richard Garlick said: "I'm delighted to welcome Pepe to the club. Pepe was a strong contender from the outset due to his impressive achievements. He is a forward thinking coach whose teams are renowned for playing an attractive and positive style of football."