By Richard Clarke
Last season, Theo Walcott showed Arsenal fans the first real signs of his massive potential. This season, Arsène Wenger will ask the 19-year-old to barge his way into the first-team on a regular basis. The Frenchman freely admits he does not yet know whether Walcott will play up front or on the wing but, he argues, there are “no limitations” on how the England international can develop.
“Theo made a step forward last season and you expect him to improve again,” said Wenger after the 2-1 win over Barnet on Saturday. “The target last year was for him to play 15 to 20 games and show quality. The target this year is to become a regular player.
“What position he’ll play in I don’t know. At the moment he looks more at ease wide than as a central striker. But we have to wait through the preparation games and see how ready he will be. The Barnet game was not a good opportunity to judge him.”
That is undeniably true. On Saturday, Walcott started up front alongside Nicklas Bendtner as Wenger fielded a more established XI in the first half and a younger one after the break. It appeared to be an “easing in” exercise for a rusty first-team squad. Arsenal trailed the League Two side at half time and had to rely on goals from Jay Simpson and Nacer Barazite to secure a comeback victory.
Afterwards Wenger spoke about the issues surrounding Walcott as a striker or a wide midfielder.
“He is not really a link player he is more a runner so you need to find a link player who can play close to him,” said Wenger. “It depends on who he plays with and you need to find the right combination. But he can play wide, right, left, central.
“Still I expect a lot from him, this season. At 19 years of age you have to improve. But how much better I don’t really know. You certainly don’t put any limitations on that."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 21 Jul 2008