Wenger - I have so much respect for Theo

Theo Walcott's conduct during his injury rehabilitation has earned him extra respect from Arsene Wenger.

The England international is closing on a first-team return after making his comeback for the under-21s last week, and the manager has been impressed by Walcott's philosophical approach to his nine-month lay-off.

"He had a very difficult time," said Wenger. "He's a very polite and social guy, but behind that, he's mentally strong as well.

"For what he has gone through in the last nine months, you gain even more respect for him, because he had some difficult times and always responded very positively. He's got a young baby, where they had some problems, but he has done extremely well."

"[Theo] had some difficult times and always responded very positively"

Like Walcott, Abou Diaby has spent much of this year on the sidelines and will not feature at Sunderland - the opposition when he suffered his first serious injury in an Arsenal shirt way back in 2006.

"He is not in the squad because he has a small calf problem," explained Wenger. "He has little injuries at the moment, never anything bad, but he has been out for such a long time that when he plays it takes him a long time to recover.

"It’s much worse for Abou because Theo has not gone through so many injuries. You wonder where Abou gets the strength back to come back and work harder and harder and harder.

"When you come in in the morning he’s already in the gym to prepare. He has done extremely well - you cannot fault his attitude at all. You can only admire him for that. He is always in my mind. His first injury at Sunderland in the last minute - that was a huge blow in his career."

Aaron Ramsey has happier memories of Sunderland - he scored twice there in a 3-1 win last season - and Wenger expects the Wales midfielder to scale those heights again soon.

"He had a good rest," said the manager. "Now we expect him to produce his performances that he produced last season. I think he is there and that will come naturally."


Abou Diaby on his return to the starting lineup

Abou Diaby on his return to the starting lineup


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