Arsene Wenger has stated that he has no ambitions of offloading Theo Walcott in the January transfer window and that the England international is ‘looking sharp’ after overcoming recent illness.
With the summer signing of Alexandre Lacazette, the long-term Gunner attacker has dropped down the pecking order at the Emirates Stadium this season and is yet to start a Premier League game in 2017-18.
Wenger confirms Wilshere and Walcott will start. On Walcott: "He works very hard to come back into it. He had a sickness a few weeks ago and after I didn't change the squad but in training he looks very sharp." So you are keeping him in January? "Yes."
— James Olley (@JamesOlley) December 6, 2017
As such, speculation in today’s press has linked Walcott with a move to Everton next month, with The Daily Mail stating Sam Allardyce would be willing to offer the flyer the regular first-team football that has not been forthcoming in North London.
However, Wenger stated in a pre-match press conference on Wednesday that the Englishman would play in Arsenal’s Europa League clash with BATE Borisov on Thursday night.
“He works hard to come back – he had a sickness a few weeks ago – and after I didn’t change the squad,” The Telegraph report the Gunners boss as saying.
“In training he looks sharp and he will show that.”
The Walcott dilemma has long puzzled Arsenal fans and the player himself has suffered contrasting fortunes during his time with the club.
When fit and firing, there is no doubt that the former Southampton attacker can be blistering in the final third.
Walcott has in the past played himself into almost weekly selection under Wenger, but there have been issues over whether the 28-year-old is best utilised as a central striker or a winger.
There is little wonder that the transfer speculation over his future is starting up, with the forward looking unlikely to be selected in the England squad for next summer’s World Cup in Russia unless something drastic changes soon.
From an Arsenal perspective, Walcott could be a devastating alternative to Alexis Sanchez is the Chilean needed a rest or was selected to play through the middle.
However, for him to be an asset to the club, Wenger needs to get the Englishman refocused and back to his best – Mesut Ozil and Alex Iwobi are also ahead of him in the selection queue for attacking midfield berths.
Regardless of whether Walcott stays or goes over the next year, it will surely be a case of what might have been for Arsenal fans when his name is mentioned.
A young player tipped to go right to the game’s pinnacle, this feat was never achieved as inconsistency, injuries and the form of others blocked the English winger’s path.
In the shorter term, giving Walcott minutes on the pitch against BATE is a smart tactic and helping him back to match fitness could be as good as a new signing as the festive season fixture list piles up.