Wenger admits Walcott has not made progress

He is still not 19 until March but Theo Walcott has not made the progress expected of him when he joined Arsenal. The second anniversary of that astonishing £12m move from Southampton – £5m down, the rest in performance-related instalments – falls tomorrow, but he will not be in the Arsenal squad that faces Fulham in the league this afternoon. Instead Walcott will be at the training ground preparing for next week's League Cup semi-final second leg, very much the most junior competition in the club's priorities.

The admission that Walcott has not "come on" as would have been hoped was a significant one made by Arsène Wenger yesterday. "He will get where I expect him to be," the Arsenal manager said, "at the moment he is not." Wenger added that he was unconcerned and said he believed that by the end of the season "he can make that step" to the first team.

Recent evidence has not been persuasive with Walcott's latest outing, against Birmingham City, one of his most disappointing to date. "He was troubled a little bit," Wenger conceded. "It can happen at that age and it's part of the learning process. They have to deal with that. The expectation level is very high because he is very young and he has been projected early in the spotlight."

Part of that projection came with Wenger championing Walcott's inclusion in the 2006 World Cup squad and yesterday he admitted that may have been a mistake.

"I believe it had good and bad," he said. "Good because he learnt very early what is the pressure of this kind of job, so he knows what is expected of him once he plays. Bad, because the expectation level around him puts him under enormous pressure."

Persistent shoulder injuries have not helped and Wenger said the problem had led Walcott, whom he now intends to push as a second striker rather than a winger, into falling into "bad habits" on the field. Still the bare facts are that Walcott has started 24 games for Arsenal, with 29 substitute appearances, scoring four goals and often making minimal impact.

Wenger, however, ruled out sending him out on loan, although he claimed "nearly all the other clubs outside the top four" had made inquiries. It should not be forgotten that when he signed Walcott he had to fend off strong interest from Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and, belatedly, Manchester United, and declared "we've won the lottery" the day he signed along with Emmanuel Adebayor and Abou Diaby.

With Lassana Diarra sold to Portsmouth, something Wenger said he regretted, players missing at the African Nations Cup and injuries to Robin van Persie – out for another three weeks – and Johan Djourou, Wenger said he was down to just 17 outfield players. One more injury, he added, to a central defender and he "would have to buy" this month against his intentions, although he claimed not to be interested in the 17-year-old Russian Vyacheslav Dmitriev, who plays for Torpedo Moscow.

Wenger expressed admiration for another Russian, the Zenit St Petersburg playmaker Andrei Arshavin, but again said he was not bidding. Indeed, he added: "Maybe you should ban the transfer window. It is not necessarily a good idea because it can change the force inside the league."

One of the teams attempting to do that are Fulham, who should field their new £5m signing from Watford, Marlon King, in attack.

Wenger maintained that he does not need to buy – as much as to preserve the chemistry in his squad as anything else. "When you are in a good position you think it can spoil your season now," he said. "So you buy two or three players, then the players come back [from the African Nations Cup] and you go from not enough to too many players. You never have the right balance."

That balance would have been helped by the return of Van Persie, but a recurrence of his thigh injury has led to Wenger blaming himself for allowing the Dutch striker, who has returned to the Netherlands for treatment, play in the League Cup last week. "We wanted to rush him a little bit back after the muscular problems and were not cautious enough maybe," Wenger said. Even so, he still cannot find a place for Walcott.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea