Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has told Theo Walcott to make a decision over his position and stick to it.
Walcott is in danger of missing out on England’s Euro 2016 squad if he cannot persuade Wenger to pick him for the Gunners.
The 27-year-old is Arsenal’s longest-serving player but is struggling to break into the first team and Wenger is unlikely to make too many changes for today’s Premier League clash at sixth-placed West Ham following last week’s 4-0 defeat of Watford.
Wenger explained the issue has arisen in part because, when Walcott is not selected, he wishes to play in a different position to try to feature.
“The problem with Theo is he wants to play on the right and through the middle. You have to fix yourself somewhere,” Wenger said.
“When he doesn’t go through the middle, he thinks maybe for me it’s better on the right.”
Walcott extended his Arsenal contract 12 months ago and Wenger predicted he would make an impact as a central striker.
But he has not featured centrally “as much as he could have expected”, Wenger said.
“It’s true that at some stage I fixed him more through the middle, because of the quality of his runs, the intelligence of his runs, and he has improved his finishing a lot,” Wenger added. “He can be a player through the middle. And on the flanks today you have to work very hard defensively.
“He had good periods in the season. Recently, he has gone through a much more difficult period. But he will come back.
“He works very hard. I must say he puts the effort in in training. At the moment for him, for (Olivier) Giroud, it’s a bit more difficult.
“But that’s part of the competition. He understands that as well and he fights very hard. But in our job things can change very quickly from one week to the next, it can change.”
Arsenal enter this weekend’s fixtures eight points adrift of leaders Leicester with seven games to play.
Today will be Wenger’s final trip to Upton Park ahead of West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium.
Wenger oversaw Arsenal’s switch from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium which tested the club’s resources and is a mitigating factor in the Gunners’ struggles to reclaim the Premier League title they last won in 2004.
The Frenchman refused to begrudge the deal negotiated by West Ham, which sees them carry little of the cost associated with the stadium.
Wenger likened it to the deal which saw Manchester City take over the stadium built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
“They have taken this opportunity and taken it very well,” Wenger said of West Ham.
“I say ‘well done, you have won in the lottery, and you do not need to sweat like I did for long years, and fight for every pound’. So it’s very well done, they have made a good deal.
“For me, it is similar to the Man City situation. Man City got a new stadium for £20m (€24.7m), basically.”
Put to him that it was unfair, Wenger said: “I leave you that statement. Is it fair, is it not fair? It is legal.”
Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere made his long-awaited return from injury for Arsenal’s U21s last night.
The 24-year-old, who has yet to figure for the Gunners this season after breaking his leg last summer, played 64 minutes of the clash with Newcastle’s youngsters at Emirates Stadium.
Tomas Rosicky, also coming back from injury, played 46 minutes.
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