By Richard Clarke

As it stands, Arsène Wenger has spent hours talking about Theo Walcott in press conferences but only given him a matter of minutes on the pitch.

Barely a media engagement goes by without someone asking when the exciting 17-year-old will get his first start in an Arsenal shirt. Despite being taken to the World Cup last summer, so far the winger has been restricted to substitute appearances for his Club.

That clamour only intensified this week when Walcott bagged a wonderful brace as England Under-21s beat Germany to reach next summer's European Championships.

"I watched it on my TV and I was very happy," said Wenger at Friday's pre-match press conference. "On the first one I said 'goal' immediately. His first touch was not perfect but when you see him going through, you know nobody in the world can catch him. On the second goal, he still had it all to do even when he was past the first defender. You need really top quality to finish like he did after such a long run.

"I always like the guy who is not scared to take on somebody. You want people to take the ball and have a go at people. To finish like Theo did there was fantastic."

So why, after backing his inclusion in Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad last summer, does Wenger seem reluctant to give him a run for Arsenal?

"Theo was ready to come on at the World Cup," explained the Frenchman. "But maybe he was not ready to start the games with all the pressure. However when the space opens up, it doesn't matter if you're 17 or 30, if you're quick, you're quick.

"He can do it for us as well. He can start for Arsenal but he must not only be good enough to start for us, he must be better than the player who [currently] starts for us. At the moment that's where his problem lies."

3/1 - Arsenal v Watford: Robin van Persie to score the first goal

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Richard Clarke 13 Oct 2006