Wednesday 20 November 2019

Wenger: Walcott can still shine

Theo Walcott is in contract negotiations with Arsenal
Theo Walcott is in contract negotiations with Arsenal

Arsene Wenger hopes Arsenal can enjoy Theo Walcott's "golden age", if the forward agrees to stay at the Emirates Stadium.

Walcott has long been likened to Arsenal's record goalscorer Thierry Henry and now Wenger believes the 26-year-old is ready to emulate the Frenchman by becoming a full-time striker.

"He can be transformed," Wenger said.

"Being 26 to 32 as a striker is the best age as a striker and I wouldn't like to miss that golden age. He is naturally gifted to play in this position.

"I work with him in both situations, as a striker and as a wide player. But the quality of the runs is so fantastic with the pace he has.

"When he was younger he was rushing his finishing but he is a good finisher now."

Walcott signed a new three-year deal in January 2013 which expires at the end of next season.

Wenger insists the England forward will not leave this summer, even if a new deal is not agreed, and says Walcott is integral to the squad.

"He is part of us," Wenger said.

"Of the whole squad he is the player who has played the most games for us.

"Nobody has played more for us than Theo Walcott - I think he has played 202 games."

Asked if Walcott will play often enough amid the competition within the Arsenal squad, Wenger added: "It's a good question but it is a question you will ask anywhere he will go because he will only be in a big club - and in a big club the competition is there."

Wenger believes Walcott wants to stay with the Gunners.

"He loves the club and I think he wants to stay, personally," the Arsenal boss added.

"Once a player accepts to talk to you, that means his first wish is to stay. I don't think his desire is to leave.

"If then you cannot find an agreement, that has nothing to do with loyalty."

Walcott could start for Arsenal in Monday night's Premier League clash with Swansea, when the Gunners will look to extend their 10-game unbeaten run, where the only dropped points were a goalless draw with champions Chelsea.

Wenger believes Arsenal, without a Premier League title since 2003-04, would have pushed Chelsea close with their end-of-season rally, had the Blues not ground out some late wins.

"In a normal championship, I think we would have come back in the race," Wenger added.

"The problem we had this season is Chelsea had no real blip.

"Chelsea lost only two games and games like when they won at Hull, games like QPR, where they were not at their best, but could still manage a win.

"This is the kind of wins you have when you smell you are close to win it."

PA Media

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