Arsene Wenger Says Theo Walcott's 'Time Will Come' to Regain Starting Role

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 24:  Theo Walcott of Arsenal during the Carabao Cup fourth round match between Arsenal and Norwich City at Emirates Stadium on October 24, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger has reassured Theo Walcott he will get his chances to start in the Premier League, despite the England international only appearing in cup competitions so far this season.

Wenger says he doesn't want Walcott to leave the club, per Jessica Morgan of the London Evening Standard: "I do not want Theo to move on. His time in the Premier League will come."

Wenger was responding to a question borne from the view of Arsenal legend Ian Wright, who told Sky Sports' The Debate Walcott looks to have no future with the Gunners: "I'm not sure where he can go now with Arsenal and he's only playing in the Carabao Cup and the Europa League."

Wenger wants Walcott to stick around.
Wenger wants Walcott to stick around.IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

Walcott has yet to start a match in England's top flight but has been a regular starter in both the UEFA Europa League and Carabao Cup. The 28-year-old has netted three goals and provided an assist across both competitions, per WhoScored.com.

It's a marginal role but one that Walcott, to his credit, has taken to well. The winger recently talked up the importance of excelling with his limited chances, per James Olleyof the London Evening Standard: "So in this competition, cup games, Premier League when given the chance, I need to take it. That is the only chance I have to get back into the England squad."

Walcott's desire to get back into the England setup is understandable, with a FIFA World Cup on the horizon next summer in Russia. However, the attacker first needs to prove his consistency before he can earn the league starts at club level needed to get the attention of Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate.

Walcott has performed well in cup competitions this season.
Walcott has performed well in cup competitions this season.MAXIM MALINOVSKY/Getty Images

Consistency has often eluded Walcott throughout his lengthy Arsenal career. He has scored more than 100 goals for the Gunners since joining the club in 2006 but has rarely been a regular.

The problem has been patchy form, both off the ball and in front of goal. Walcott is a capable finisher who can also make perceptive runs between the lines. Yet he's also guilty of lapses in concentration and a lack of composure when presented with a chance.

Similar problems were evident during Walcott's last appearance in Arsenal's 2-1 win over Norwich City in the fourth round of the 2017 Carabao Cup. Walcott was one of the senior players in a much-changed team, but Olley noted how his sketchy movement frustrated some supporters:

Arsenal eventually beat the Canaries after extra time thanks to academy product Edward Nketiah, who came off the bench to bag a brace.

Wenger has since indicated 18-year-old Nketiah will get his chances in the league this season, per MailOnline's Joe Strange: "He will continue to get a chance. The biggest problem in the Premier League is for the first time since I'm in England we have a consistent level of results in the youth teams. That means the quality is there and the next step is to integrate them in the league."

Nketiah's continued emergence would put up one more obstacle along Walcott's path back to the first team. The latter has already struggled to earn minutes ahead of hard-working Danny Welbeck and creative Alex Iwobi, as well as star pair Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

Nketiah's emergence could spell trouble for Walcott.
Nketiah's emergence could spell trouble for Walcott.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Walcott may be left to feature in the cups, but it could be a more significant role than he realises. Arsenal don't look equipped to keep pace with Manchester City in the title race, but a squad that's lifted three FA Cups in the last four years is more than capable of winning silverware on other fronts.

Players like Walcott give the Gunners the strength in depth they'll need to win another cup this season.

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