Sunday 22 April 2018

Wenger fears Walcott left 'exposed' by England

Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott

Matt Law

Arsene Wenger has admitted he fears for Theo Walcott's state of mind after the forward was left "exposed" in the No 10 role for England.

Walcott endured a miserable time in England's friendly against Italy on Tuesday after starting up front alongside Harry Kane, before being switched to the top of a diamond midfield to allow Wayne Rooney to move further forward.

Having touched the ball just 14 times in 55 minutes, Walcott was replaced by Ross Barkley.

"Theo's sensitive and I'm a bit concerned about the damage that game can have on his mind," said Wenger. "Being exposed like that, people have a harsh judgment on him that is not deserved."

Asked whether he had ever seen Walcott (right) play at No 10 before, even in training, Wenger added: "No. Theo's strength is the quality of his movements, he wants to go to get on the end of things. He's not a guy who provides.

"I don't think it was the intention of Roy Hodgson to play him there. It was maybe Rooney who 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's an initiative they took on the pitch.

In his last four Arsenal starts, he has scored three goals but there are doubts over his future with negotiations over a new contract likely to be protracted amid interest from tomorrow's opponents Liverpool.

Walcott's £100,000-a-week deal has just over a year to run and it remains to be seen whether Arsenal will agree to pay him more.

Wenger, though, insists he is not concerned about Walcott's form or progress and said: "I don't worry about Theo because he's not completely there yet with his fitness. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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