Arsène Wenger has been cautious about reintegrating Theo Walcott into the Arsenal team to ensure he is as sharp as possible.

The England international spent close to a year on the sidelines after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament at the start of 2014.

Walcott has made 11 appearances since his return, and Wenger says he is now ready to come back into the starting line-up.

“He is all right now. With the cruciate, before the age of 25 you come back and you continue to develop normally,” he said. “A cruciate after 28 is much more problematic.

“No [there will not be any long-term issues]. He is a natural athlete and a sprinter, and a very straight-line sprinter. It means every shock he gets is at full power.

“He is ready now to play games. But when a player has been out for a year, when he comes back he always thinks he is ready. When you speak to him three weeks later and ask him if he thinks he really was ready [before] he says, ‘Now I realise, no’.

“I have been holding him back because he has been out for a long time and for the fact there is intense competition.”

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Rob Kelly 13 Mar 2015