Arsène Wenger believes Theo Walcott is a victim of the "expectation level" which climbed dramatically after the 17-year-old was a shock inclusion in England's World Cup squad last summer.

The Arsenal winger produced some eye-catching cameo displays at the start of the season but has been below par in recent weeks and struggled to make an impression in the Cup ties against Tottenham and Bolton.

Walcott should get another chance to shine when Spurs visit Emirates Stadium this evening and Wenger is confident he can emerge stronger from what has been a testing time for the teenager.

"He is on the verge of getting over his dip in form," said Wenger. "He has made the biggest step now. It is part of growing - being hit by the expectation level.

"When you start no one expects anything from you. Once you are established as a name people expect something special from you every time you touch the ball. It is part of the maturing process to get over that and learn to deal with it and stick to what made your game strong.

"Once you are famous and have a name it is difficult to keep being patient. You forget that this boy is not even 18 years of age. Everytime he touches the ball people expect a lot of him. Just let him play, give him the needed confidence.

"He has made a big, big improvement in the last six months. That will come out very shortly."

Walcott has scored memorable goals for Southampton and England Under-21s during his fledgling career but has yet to find the net for the Arsenal first team after 20 appearances for his new club. It's a statistic which Wenger suspects is playing on Walcott's mind.

"When you are so young you always rate the goals rather than a good pass or a good cross," said the Arsenal manager. "I don't mind that he has not scored. In the past he has scored goals for fun. At the moment he had not scored so it must play on his mind.

"What convinces me is that he is such a good finisher in training and the way he took his last two chances [against Tottenham and Bolton] was a bit hesitant.

That means it is playing certainly a big part on his mind."

In the picture above Theo Walcott is wearing a T-shirt to promote Arsenal's Community initiative, 'The World on our Doorstep'. The initiative celebrates the multi-culturalism of the Borough of Islington. Arsenal's players will wear these T-shirts when they warm up ahead of tonight's game against Tottenham.

10/1 - Arsenal v Tottenham: Tomas Rosicky to score the first goal

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
31 Jan 2007