By Chris Harris
Theo Walcott need not worry about his World Cup place, according to Arsène Wenger.
The 20-year-old has managed just 54 minutes of competitive action this term after suffering a back injury during his only pre-season outing at Valencia on August 8. Walcott came off the bench to score on his return against Blackburn before the international break but hobbled off during the first half of Saturday's 3-1 win over Birmingham following a heavy challenge from Liam Ridgewell.
Walcott has been ruled out for three to four weeks with knee ligament damage and could miss England's friendly with Brazil on November 14 as well as a number of domestic games. Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips have staked their claim for an England place in the Arsenal man's absence but Wenger is convinced that Walcott will be on the plane to South Africa next summer.
“I believe Theo is worried about the World Cup certainly, but I don’t think there’s any reason to worry now," said Wenger. "He will be in the squad. He will be fit. It’s October and he has an injury of two to three weeks. I say four to be covered.”
Walcott is barely into his 20s but has already endured plenty of bad luck on the injury front. He spent four months on the sidelines last season after dislocating his shoulder and has now appeared in just 19 of Arsenal's last 53 games in all competitions.
It's a statistic which concerns Wenger but he does not believe Walcott is injury prone - or targeted by Premier League defenders.
“No I don't think he is fragile, not really. I have not completely made my mind up," said the Frenchman.
"He’s had two shoulder surgeries that were a genetical weakness, from the family. From the rest, I don’t believe he is injury prone. Don’t forget usually it is the striker who gets hit and the defender who hits. Most of the time the strikers are more injury prone because of the way the game is played. The quicker they are the more they get kicked and at a higher pace.
“I wouldn’t say that he is injury prone [based] on that incident [with Ridgewell]. He is the type of player who controls the ball on the first touch. That’s the biggest problem for the strikers, when they are injured will they continue to play like they did?
“I don’t want to believe that [he is singled out for treatment]. But of course I know how the game is in England. Eduardo got hit and injured on the first tackle.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 20 Oct 2009