Swansea vs Arsenal: Arsene Wenger hints at starting Theo Walcott against Swans as England winger returns to fitness

Walcott has recovered from a nine-month lay-off and could be in line to start against Swansea on Sunday afternoon

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Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Theo Walcott is fit enough to start Arsenal's Premier League match against Swansea on Sunday should he decide to recall the winger to his starting line-up after nine months out with a knee injury.

Walcott ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during the 2-0 FA Cup victory over Tottenham in Janaury, and subsequently missed the rest of the season as well as the World Cup. After an agonisingly long rehabilitation, Walcott returned to action last weekend when he came off the bench in the win over Burnley, and Wenger could look to the England international to give his side a much-needed lift.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Wenger said: "He is in the squad. He can start if I decide to start him.”

Walcott was also named in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the upcoming matches against Slovenia and Scotland, despite only playing 10 minutes of first-team football this season.

 

But Wenger has no concerns with the 25-year-old being named in the squad and believes that any match time he is afforded will help him as he is currently short on match fitness.

“He needs playing time,” Wenger added. “Roy Hodgson is free to do what he wants.”

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Arsenal are looking to bounce back from the second-half capitulation against Anderlecht on Wednesday that saw them let slip a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 with the Belgian champions. A victory would have been enough to put the Gunners through to the last-16 of the Champions League, but while they still stand a good chance of progressing to the first knockout round, there will be serious concerns at their obvious defensive frailties.

Wenger labelled the result “a shock” but insisted that his side have the mental character to recover from the comeback draw and ignore the negativity of their performance at the Emirates.

"It was a shock but overall we know we can score goals and do better defensively,” he said.

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Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during an Arsenal training session

"We can learn a lot from what happened. Subconsciously we thought the game was over and it rarely is.

"We are very positive inside the camp. We are not affected by negativity. We are not happy when we don't win but that's it.”

Aaron Ramsey was targeted with some of the criticism for under-performing against Anderlecht, but Wenger stressed that the Welshman is a crucial part of how the team plays and that he is not there to just score goals.

"He has to keep his priorities right. He needs to help the team. It's not about goalscoring,” Wenger explained.

"That's the job of people who work on TV or in newspapers,” he added when asked about the negative reports. “They're just doing their job.”

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