Arsène Wenger has urged England's head coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, to take a "big gamble" by taking Theo Walcott to the World Cup. The teenage forward joined Arsenal from Southampton in January for a fee which could rise to £12 million and has yet to make his first-team debut, but Wenger feels he could be a potent weapon in Germany in the likely absence of Wayne Rooney.
The Arsenal manager said: "I think he has something special. He could be a pleasant surprise, but, of course, it is a big gamble. Theo is only 17 and it is a big pressure to have - but I would not stop Sven from picking him."
He added: "When Sven asks me about a player, I always give him my opinion - and I regard Walcott as a big prospect."
Surely, to expect Eriksson to trust in a youngster who has yet to play a first-team game is a tall order, however gifted he is. Wenger admitted that Walcott, who has been troubled by a shoulder problem in recent weeks, "needs games", and accepted: "At the moment we are playing so many matches that it is difficult to integrate him, but he has the quality to do well.
"I have wanted for years now to be able to name at least 18 players in my squad, and if I had the choice to have a player like Walcott more involved in the A team then I would, and he would certainly have come on."
Wenger understands Eriksson's dilemma over Rooney, the Manchester United striker having suffered a broken foot which is likely to rule him out for at least six weeks. "Rooney is the exception you can afford to take a chance with. You can't afford three with only a half-chance."
The Frenchman reflected: "I have to remind you of one thing - France won the World Cup with one striker who did not score. It can help the team. They [the forwards] scored zero goals and before the tournament all the focus is on who can score."Reuse content