By Nick Teale
Arsène Wenger says Theo Walcott could be a "fantastic" striker and may get a chance to take on the central role in the near future.
However, the Frenchman is cautious about bringing the 20-year-old back into the side too soon after his recovery from a knee injury sustained in the Gunners' 3-1 win over Birmingham in October.
With Robin van Persie (ankle) and Nicklas Bendtner (groin) currently out of contention, Walcott is one player who could take on the central striker's role in the Gunners' 4-3-3 formation.
Wenger has highlighted his belief that the Englishman has potential to be a fantastic striker and says now could be the time for Walcott to get an opportunity up front.
"There is a chance," said the Arsenal manager. "I believe he has all the assets to be a fantastic central player.
"I'm very conscious of that because of the quality and the timing of his runs."
Walcott has made two substitute appearances since returning from injury, but Wenger is taking a guarded approach to his return after problems re-integrating the 20-year-old into the side in the past.
"The only thing I would say with Theo is that every time I have rushed him back he has got injured again.
"This time I have decided to take the time to get him completely 100 per cent fit to come back."
The Frenchman has also highlighted some areas Walcott needs to work on if he is to become a leading striker.
"What he needs to work on to play in this kind of position is [having his] back to goal.
"At the moment, his strengths are more central to the counter-attacking role than the distribution role. That's what he has to add to his game."