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Arsene Wenger: Theo Walcott is better than ever

PUBLISHED: 07:08 17 March 2017 | UPDATED: 07:08 17 March 2017

Arsenal's Theo Walcott (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game

Arsenal's Theo Walcott (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game

EMPICS Sport

Despite England boss Gareth Southgate ruining Theo Walcott’s 28th birthday by failing to pick him for the forthcoming internationals against Germany and Lithuania Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been full of praise for the mercurial wideman.

The long-serving Frenchman is convinced Walcott has become a more ‘complete player’ in a season which has seen him hit 17 goals for the North Londoners across all competitions this term.

Wenger was full of admiration for Walcott after his Arsenal career looked to be coming to a close last season after a spell of long-term injuries and dramatic loss of form.

However, the Frenchman insisted Walcott turned his career around after taking a long, hard look at himself in the close season of 2016 – and deciding he wanted to work as hard as he has ever done in a bid to realise his talent.

Speaking in a press conference at London Colney before Saturday’s early kick-off against Tony Pulis’ West Brom Wenger explained: “He has become more of a complete player, more efficient.

“He does better in the tactical part of his game and works hard defensively and offensively.”

With Walcott netting Arsenal’s goal in the 5-1 home Champions League defeat to Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich, as well as FA Cup strikes against Lincoln City and Sutton United Wenger added: “He has turned up in big games as well, he can score goals in big games. He showed that against Bayern, he scored the goal and I think it was a penalty on him and he can influence games.”

Wenger also hailed Walcott’s attitude and hard work, which has enabled him to become only the 18th man to register 100 goals for the North London giants.

He explained: “Always in life you try and get to the next level when things don’t go for you, or you think you do everything right and continue to live like you did before.

“Theo had the right response. He said, ‘what do I need to do to get higher up?’ and he did it.”

Wenger also discussed the thorny subject of Walcott’s favourite position – was it right wing or centre forward, as the former Southampton man insisted a few seasons ago?

With the 28-year-old again flourishing out wide on the right flank instead of floundering in a more central role Wenger gave an insight into the pair’s thinking.

He said: “I have always been convinced - because of the quality of his runs – Walcott is a central striker. He was for a while as well too.

“But then Theo made up his mind during last summer’s break [to play wide] and he feels more comfortable on the right.

“He is very fair - he said if you give me the choice I would prefer to play on the right but if you want I will play through the middle.

“[Right winger] is his preferred position and it is true that it is where he is most efficient.”

With the club in need of maximum points in what will be a tricky match against eight-placed West Brom at the Hawthorns against old foe Tony Pulis tomorrow, another good performance from Walcott will go a long way to kick-starting Arsenal’s annual push for a top four spot

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