Arsene Wenger has moved to praise Theo Walcott in a big way, admitting he is a priority to Arsenal for a number of reasons.
The England international has been a regular starter for the Gunners this season, and has repaid the faith with a number of impressive displays, including 19 goals in all competitions thus far.
The Arsenal boss has now moved to praise the winger, whilst revealing he is sometimes substituted simply to avoid injury following a number of unlucky sufferings, and claims he is especially strong mentally.
Wenger said: “If you look at his career, Theo can respond to disappointment with good focus. He had a very bad injury and he came back. In 2006, he was in the World Cup squad but he has not been since – and we are in 2017 now.
“That means he can deal with disappointment.
“I have substituted him many times but it is like that with every player. Sometimes I sub him because we want something different in the game.
“For example, the other night against West Ham I subbed him. Given what has happened to him during his career, when the job was done I took him off because you don’t need a stupid injury with 10, 15 minutes to go.
He added: “He responds to challenges. It’s the only way he knows. He’s a guy who cares and wants to do well. He has a huge level of focus.
“I looked at his numbers the other day and he has played wide since the start of the season, has played 20 games in the Premier League and scored 10 goals. For a wide player that’s quite positive.
“Theo has improved his defensive commitment a lot compared to what it was before. He was sometimes a bit less focused on the teamwork.
“He shows huge commitment on a daily basis.
“I give a little bit of priority to the guys who know the Arsenal values, those who have been here for a long time. For me, loyalty plays a part when it comes to representing a club – and Theo has been very loyal.
“When we’ve renegotiated contracts he has always given priority to that. I was surprised he was left out by England but there is competition there now.
“You have a young generation coming through, with the likes of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.
“Jack Wilshere was left out and Walcott was left out – they are usually the people who are always in there. But Theo has the determination and quality to get back in there.”
Walcott has been a stigma for criticism on a number of occasions for Arsenal fans, but does he finally deserve to be a first-team regular? Can you understand why Wenger rates him so highly?