Saturday 25 November 2017

Wenger set to make Walcott wait for Premier League chance despite Borisov brace

Theo Walcott could get a Premier League start
Theo Walcott could get a Premier League start

Arsene Wenger plans to reward Theo Walcott for his goals against BATE Borisov with more Premier League minutes, but will persevere with plans to rotate his team for Sunday's visit of Brighton.

Walcott has been a peripheral figure this season but scored twice during Arsenal's Europa League victory on Thursday, having struggled for selection amid competition from Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette.

The England forward impressed in his role behind Olivier Giroud and alongside Jack Wilshere, but will not be retained against Brighton because of Wenger's plans to protect his players from a demanding schedule.

The 28-year-old was critical of Arsenal's poor performance when they lost 3-0 at Crystal Palace in April, but Wenger insists that has had no influence on selection and, when asked if Walcott will be used in the league, responded: "Yes. (But) the competition up front is hard.

"I have Sanchez, I have Walcott. I have shown Theo I have confidence in him for a big game (at BATE). I have a different schedule for the players who have played the full 90 (on Thursday); I will rotate again on Sunday.

"I don't relate the selection to (Walcott's post-Palace comments) at all. I have experienced many times statements after the games, so it is nothing to do with that. It is just I have many strikers of top quality.

"Lucas Perez I have given out on loan so that is why I have all these decisions to make on that front. It is important to give them enough games.

"He could have scored more (at BATE), but his strength is scoring goals. He can score goals: he is a good finisher and had two or three more chances. But as long as the team played very well, there were plenty of chances.

"He has good quality in the timing of his runs and the quality of his runs. He goes into areas where he is dangerous."

Giroud scored from the penalty that secured his 100th goal for Arsenal when Walcott was pursuing his hat-trick.

Wenger insists he is happy for the former Southampton player not to have that "selfish" streak as he prepares to recall those rested from Thursday's trip to Belarus. Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, Sead Kolasinac, Lacazette and Sanchez were among those who stayed in London.

"Never encourage them to be selfish because you want them to make the right decisions in front of goal," said the 67-year-old Frenchman. "Sometimes the right decision is to give the ball and you give the ball.

"Sometimes the right decision is to take your chance and so you take your chance. Overall, all the strikers need in some way to be a little bit selfish. I don't like the word, but you need a bit of that to score.

"I was pleased that he left the ball for Giroud because it was his 100th goal as well. Yes, he could have scored his hat-trick but Giroud also deserved his 100th goal."

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