Walcott ready for World Cup run-in

Arsenal winger shakes off injury problems to target an England place this summer
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The Independent Football

Theo Walcott hopes he is now on course to get back to his best , both for Arsenal and England. The 20-year-old made only a fifth Premier League start of what has been an injury-plagued season so far in the 2-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday.

With England manager Fabio Capello an interested spectator at Emirates Stadium, Walcott looks set to return to the senior national team for the friendly against Egypt next week, having been left out of the Under-21 squad for the European Championship qualifier with Greece.

The former Southampton trainee, a shock inclusion in Sven Goran Eriksson's World Cup squad four years ago, is taking things one match at a time. "This season has been the most frustrating in my football career so far – just on, off, on, off, all the time," Walcott said.

"I don't think people really realise that you can't be at your best just like that – it takes a few games, and in my case, it has been so frustrating getting injured, coming back, approaching full fitness and then picking up another injury. I have lost count of the number of times it has happened.

"Now I have managed to get a few games on the trot and my first priority is to come out of them without injury. I am trying to get back to my best. In a couple of games' time, I think I will be up to full fitness and hopefully I can show people I am back."

Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal amanger, claims Walcott is being put under "terrible pressure" to be fully fit in time to have an impact at the finals in South Africa. Walcott, though, maintained: "I am not looking too far towards the World Cup at all, to be honest. I am just concentrating on Arsenal, with all the big games ahead of us, because I have not really featured much for my club this season.

"I just need to stay fit now, and if I do, then hopefully I will have a chance of getting on the plane. There is a friendly against Egypt on 3 March, and if I am playing for Arsenal, then of course I would love to be involved."

Walcott's return to fitness has been a welcome boost for Capello, after Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon suffered a setback with his groin injury. However, the Arsenal man – who scored a famous hat-trick in England's qualifying victory in Croatia during September 2008 – is determined to keep himself grounded.

"I am still developing – I am not 21 yet and Thierry Henry did not really come through until he was 23," Walcott said. "There is still plenty of time for me – I have got the best manager and players around me, and we believe we can win something this year."

Arsenal are still six points off leaders Chelsea, but Walcott maintains Wenger's men will just continue to quietly go about their business. He said: "A lot of people tend to write us off, but we just stay in the background doing our thing.

"There is a smile on everyone's face at the moment and now we have got to show more. Keep playing, getting results. That's what you do to win a title."

Walcott added: "It was frustrating earlier in the season with results not going our way, especially in the big matches. But it is all starting to come together now and, especially if we can get our big players back to full fitness, we can have a great end to the season."

Meanwhile, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has confirmed the full extent of Aaaron Lennon's latest injury setback. The Spurs winger – who had been recovering well from the problem he picked up in December – has undergone an MRI scan, and is set for an ultrasound to determine the full extent of any additional damage after feeling discomfort during training.

Redknapp, speaking ahead of tonight's FA Cup fifth-round replay against Bolton, said: "He was close to getting fit, but has had a bit of a setback. Hopefully it should not put him back much from where he was, and he could still be fit in a couple of weeks."

Lennon, like Walcott, is a potential member of England's World Cup squad in the summer. Redknapp, though, first wants the winger back producing the goods for Spurs as they chase a top-four finish in the Premier League.

"At first the diagnosis was he could be back in four or five weeks but you never know with these groin problems, they can take time and he has had a couple of setbacks," Redknapp said.

"Aaron has worked hard to get fit but every time seems to have a little problem there. Hopefully, though, it will get sorted out and he will be back soon. So long as he gets back and gets enough match action for Tottenham to take us where we want to go, then the World Cup will follow.

"Aaron has had a scan, and has just torn a couple fibres away apparently. It is difficult and has been dragging on a long time. We will just have to wait and see. Aaron is low when he is not playing, and is working hard out on the training ground with the fitness coach, is in the medical room getting his treatment, trying to get himself fit."