By Richard Clarke

Arsène Wenger has backed Theo Walcott to come through his recent dip in form and emerge a better player.

Arsenal's 17-year-old winger made some sparkling cameo appearances at the start of the season but had a quiet game at Tottenham on Wednesday in a rare start.

His manager puts this down to 'growing pains' as a footballer. The cure would be provided simply by a good game or a goal.

"I think he has developed very well in the year he has been with us but recently he had a little dip in form," said Wenger.

"He is certainly a miles better player than six months ago. But I feel at the moment he needs a goal or a shot of confidence. He looks a bit short of it right now.

"I think it is necessary to go through that period when you are 17-years old. At the start it is all worryless, fresh and new. After that the responsibility hits you and you go through a little patch like that. But he is a level-headed boy and analyses things well though sometimes that is a disadvantage.

"I still think going to the World Cup speeded up his maturity and he will be ready earlier than everybody else. But you go through periods in your career. And when you grow at 17 sometimes physically you have a period where you feel a little bit less good. I think he is going through that period right now."

11/2 - Arsenal v Bolton Wanderers: Arsenal to win 2-0

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Richard Clarke 26 Jan 2007