Wenger dismisses Bentley talk of Walcott's departure

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger reacted with annoyance yesterday to David Bentley's claim that the striker Theo Walcott may have to "look elsewhere" if he is to achieve regular first-team football. "I don't give a big importance to his opinion," the Arsenal manager said of Bentley. "I don't know why one player should incite another to leave his club. It's not his job."

Bentley left Arsenal in frustration for Blackburn Rovers on a permanent deal just over two years ago – having made only five first-team appearances and just one in the Premier League. The 23-year-old has become one of the few players to do so whose career has blossomed since, recently being selected for Fabio Capello's first England team.

Wenger, however, said that Bentley had stepped down a level after leaving. "When you are at one of the biggest clubs in the world you have to accept competition," he added. "If you accept it, it makes you better. If you move down you are not at the top. I believe Theo will establish himself there."

Walcott is still just 18 and, although Wenger has admitted in the past that the former Southampton player, whose fee could rise to £12m, has not progressed as quickly as he had expected, he added: "He has one big quality, when he comes on he has a big impact. He's not there completely when he starts, but soon he will have the same impact when he starts."

Walcott showed that "impact" with his contribution to the Champions League victory over Milan this week, although he will miss Sunday's league meeting with Wigan after suffering a thigh injury during a practice match yesterday against Colorado Rapids at Arsenal's training ground. Abou Diaby is also injured with a "calf problem".

Indeed, Wenger likened the contribution he eventually expects from Walcott to how Nicolas Anelka blossomed at the club. "Between 18 and 20 a player really develops, he said. "I took Anelka at 17 and a half and for the first four months he looked completely behind the team. Within another two months he was in front of Ian Wright. Every day goes for you at that age."

Speaking at the topping out ceremony for the development of the former Highbury Stadium into a complex of 700 apartments, the Arsenal managing director, Keith Edelman, claimed he was confident the club would hold on to players such as Cesc Fabregas because "there is more to life than just money. A lot of our players like being here. The club is very stable."