Saturday 16 December 2017

Arsenal's Theo Walcott ready to return for FA Cup tie against Stoke

Waiting in the wings: Theo Walcott is on the verge of a return to the Arsenal first team. Photo: Getty Images
Waiting in the wings: Theo Walcott is on the verge of a return to the Arsenal first team. Photo: Getty Images

Jeremy Wilson

Theo Walcott is ready to give Arsène Wenger another timely boost by returning to full training next week ahead of a potential first-team comeback in the FA Cup against Stoke a week on Sunday.

With Sol Campbell also poised to finalise a short-term contract prior to a possible appearance against Stoke, Wenger suddenly has players returning and options available ahead of a crucial sequence of Premier League matches.

Between Jan 27 and Feb 10, Arsenal will face Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool but, of their recently injured players, Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Nicklas Bendtner and Denilson should also all be available.

Walcott hopes to complete his individual rehabilitation programme this week and is targeting the fourth-round FA Cup tie in nine days’ time.

His most recent injury was an abductor strain and follows hamstring, knee, thigh and shoulder problems over the past 18 months. Wenger puts those injuries down to the natural maturing process of a 20 year-old whose body is still adjusting to the demands of professional football.

However, with only a friendly against Egypt in March before Fabio Capello names his provisional World Cup squad, Walcott needs a prolonged run of matches when he is free from injury. His return is also extremely important for Arsenal and will considerably ease the pressure on Wenger to buy another striker.

Wenger is seriously considering an offer from Steve McClaren’s FC Twente to take Jack Wilshere on loan but is likely to wait until the end of the transfer window before making a final decision.

Although the recent injury crisis has eased considerably, the Arsenal manager will want to be sure that he does not leave his own squad exposed by releasing Wilshere, who himself is recovering from a minor hamstring strain.

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