Arsene Wenger has warned against expecting too much too soon of Theo Walcott - but would have no issues if the fit-again forward joined up with England for the November internationals.
Walcott came off the bench for the last 10 minutes of Arsenal’s 3-0 Barclays Premier League win over Burnley, and looked lively as he tested goalkeeper Tom Heaton with an angled drive after cutting in from the right.
It has been a long road back for the 25-year-old, who suffered what would prove to be a seriuos knee injury during the closing stages of the FA Cup tie against Tottenham in January, ruling him out of contention for the World Cup.
Walcott could be included by Roy Hodgson for the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia at Wembley and friendly in Scotland, which Wenger feels would do the player’s reintegration a power of good.
“Hopefully Theo will come on and have no setbacks now, but we always have to be cautious. The battle is not won yet – at nine or 10 months out, you have ups or downs and I will have to manage that well,” said Wenger.
“If he wants to go (with England), I am happy for him to go and train, and maybe get a few minutes. I am happy for that because it will help his development. Is he completely ready? I think it is a bit early, but to be in the squad would be good for him.”
Wenger has yet to decide whether to give Walcott a start against Anderlecht in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
One player, though, set to be central to the Gunners’ once again will be Alexis Sanchez. The Chile forward drew more plaudits after taking his tally to 10 with a brace to finally breakdown Burnley’s stubborn resistance.
Sanchez had been denied by a string of fine saves from Heaton, before charging on to the end of a deep cross by full-back Calum Chambers to power a header into the bottom corner.
“He finds the resources to get you a goal when it is 0-0, that is what is important,” said Wenger.
“It is always very interesting when you look at the number of goals people score – how many times do they score at 0-0? They are the guys who can really make the decision.
“Alexis has already had a lot of decisive goals and he doesn’t score when it is 4-0, he scores when it is 0-0.”
Wenger feels there is plenty more to come from the former Barcelona forward.
“We are in a job where you can always improve,” he said.
“Sanchez is unbelievably keen to develop, work and train – he just loves football.”
Wenger, though, admits he will have to carefully temper Arsenal’s formidable attacking options.
“We have good pace – (Danny) Welbeck, Walcott and Alexis all have pace, but it is also about balance,” the Arsenal boss added.
“The difficulty for us might be there, to keep the balance offensively and defensively and put all the good players on the pitch.”