Pace root of Walcott injury woes says Wenger

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has admitted that Theo Walcott's pace could be at the root of his injury problems.

The 21-year-old England international turned in a fine individual display as he helped himself to a double in the Gunners' 4-0 Carling Cup victory at Newcastle, which booked their place in the quarter-finals.

It was his first start since his return from an injury suffered on England duty and the Frenchman looked on with fingers crossed as he rode a series of committed challenges with no ill-effects.

Wenger said: "At his pace, when you get stopped, you are always vulnerable.

"Tonight, he got one or two tackles and he got away with it because he did not have his full weight on his standing leg.

"But against Switzerland, for example, what can you do? He is not vulnerable because of his injuries, it was a tackle.

"When you play against a player who is so quick, sometimes you can mistime tackles.

"It's not necessarily always that you want to hit him, but he is so quick that you think, 'Now I can get the ball', and it has gone away."

Walcott was simply too quick for Chris Hughton's much-altered side - both managers made nine changes - although Arsenal were the beneficiaries of two slices of good fortune as they established a 2-0 lead with 53 minutes gone.

The had gone ahead in first-half injury time when Ryan Taylor attempted to clear Nicklas Bendtner's header off his own line, but saw the ball come back off keeper Tim Krul and drop into the net.

But there was more than a hint of controversy about the Gunners' second when Bendtner appeared to come from an offside position and block Mike Williamson as he attempted to head off Walcott, who finished with some style.

Bendtner's 83rd-minute strike and Walcott's second two minutes from time wrapped up a deserved win, but the Magpies could be forgiven for feeling somewhat aggrieved about the way the foundation was laid.

They will now turn their attention to Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with derby rivals Sunderland, a fixture which carries far more weight than tonight's for the supporters, and they will do so with the club having attempted to draw a line under speculation about the manager's future.

The Magpies issued a statement after the game insisting they hope to renegotiate Hughton's contract by the end of the year.

The former Republic of Ireland international said: "I presume the reason it was said was because of the unjust speculation that was flying around in the last few days.

"One thing it [the speculation] doesn't do, it doesn't deter me from the job that I am doing.

"Is it a help? Of course it's not a help; is it something I welcome? Of course it is not something I welcome.

"But one thing I can guarantee it doesn't do, it doesn't take my focus off the big job that I am employed here to do."

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