By Nick Teale
Arsène Wenger believes Theo Walcott will make England's World Cup squad but says there is "terrible pressure" on the 20-year-old ahead of the tournament.
The striker made only his fifth Premier League start of the season in Saturday's 2-0 home win over Sunderland on Saturday. That inactivity is down to the back, knee, hamstring and, most recently, rib injuries he has suffered this term.
He returned to action as a second-half substitute in the 4-2 home win over Bolton on January 20 but Wenger has already warned that it will take time for the former Southampton man to find his rhythm.
Still, the Frenchman is firm in his belief that the striker will be heading to South Africa in the summer.
"The World Cup is not today," said Wenger. "It is in June. I think he will make the squad, yes.
"The problem is that everyone has the England national team in their mind and, because you want to bring the World Cup back to London, you want everybody to be on top today.
"They will be in the long run but when players have been out for a while it takes a while to get back to your best with confidence, sharpness and zip. That will come back with Theo."
England manager Fabio Capello was at Emirates Stadium on Saturday and was regularly featured on TV cameras after Walcott had been involved in Arsenal attacks. According to Wenger, that kind of scrutiny puts intense strain on the youngster.
"It's terrible pressure," he said, "But that's the modern media. When I played there was no television and no cameras were on Capello. Today everything is analysed on Match of the Day and then people will try to get Capello to analyse it."
But the Arsenal manager believes club success could pave the way for a good World Cup, with players who approach the competition in confident mood more likely to star for their country in South Africa.
"They will be stronger at the World Cup if they come with a trophy and it has been a good a season, than without," said Wenger.
"If they have something in their pocket they are in a strong position. We are still in two competitions and the most important thing is we try to do as well as we can.
"Sport is not what happens in six months. What happens now is important to us.
"I believe what is most important is the players focus on the Club and achieve what they can for us."