Theo Walcott may be playing himself out of his role as a sparkling substitute.
The 18-year-old Arsenal winger has had a number of highly influential games this season when coming off the bench late in games.
Arsène Wenger has spoken about converting Walcott into a striker and those eye-catching cameos are convincing him to throw in the former Southampton star from the start.
"When a guy comes on and makes a difference, he doesn't stay a long time as a substitute," said the manager. "That is normal.
"Theo looks ready for a fight when certainly for a while he was just thinking it was natural for him to play. He realised that it is not as easy as people make it look for him. Because he is intelligent he realises that.

"The next step is for him to be consistent, not injured, score goals, make assists, affect games and play well away from home."
Walcott's revival runs parallel to his return to full fitness after surgery at the end of last season.
"It takes some time to get back to your best level after a shoulder injury because of your co-ordination," said Wenger.

"A shoulder looks nothing but I've noticed twice before - with Gilles Grimandi and, last year, Philippe Senderos. It takes longer than you think because the balance is affected.
"When Theo came back from his injury he lost pace. I don't know if he's gained it again but I think he has. For a while we couldn't understand that a guy so fast lost pace just because of his shoulder. But as I said it affects the co-ordination in the running.

"It looks to me he is back to his best now. It is always a problem when you are highlighted in the media - you get quickly demolished and quickly praised. Sometimes too quickly on both sides but, of course, it is better that you get praised."

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23 Oct 2007