By Richard Clarke
Theo Walcott will be perfectly happy if the Roma players clatter into his recently-recovered shoulder on Wednesday night.
The England midfielder returned after four months out when he came off the bench in the 71st minute of the FA Cup Fifth Round tie with Burnley on Sunday.
The 19-year-old was immediately in the action and had a couple of chances to squeeze home a comeback goal late in the game.
However Walcott realises his return is still a work in progress and the shoulder he dislocated back in November needs a proper test. And he does not mind if it comes at the Stadio Olimpico in the Champions League Knockout Round second leg.
“That'll definitely be good for me really,” he said. “Even though I know how weird that sounds.
“In training with Arsenal, you obviously don’t want to injure your own players so you tend to be a little softer but matchdays are totally different.
“Overall it feels fine. I still haven’t experienced getting clattered yet so that's the next test. But if that that happens the new doctor has come from a rugby background. He has dealt with two dislocated shoulders a year and he said, touch wood, I'll be OK.
“The fans gave me a big boost with a good reception on Sunday. It was a brilliant game to come in to. Hopefully I will try and get into that starting line up again. I am just looking forward to another experience in Italy now.”
And, in terms of rehabilitation, Walcott can take inspiration from the star turn against Burnley.
“Look at Eduardo,” remarked the former Southampton wide man. “He has been out for a very long time and he's mentally very strong. I have learned from watching him while he has been injured, how well he took everything in and how he smiles when he comes in every day. So I am happy for him.
“As for his finishing, that is ridiculous. It is unbelievable to watch in training. He hasn't lost his touch and he never will. He is going to score many more like that one on Sunday I hope.
“He's a brilliant finisher and we’ve missed that. I think that goal was the best finish I have seen this year so I am very happy for him.”Copyright 2014 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 9 Mar 2009