The England international has been plagued by injury problems in recent seasons and his French coach says he must stay fit if he is to realise his potential
Arsene Wenger believes Theo Walcott is entering a “decisive” spell in his Arsenal career and has backed the winger to become world class.
The England international has struggled with injury problems in recent seasons and missed a year after damaging ligaments in his knee during an FA Cup tie against Tottenham.
And, with yet another north London derby looming, Wenger has praised the 25-year-old, but insists that he must stay injury-free if he is to realise his potential at the Emirates.
“Can he be world class? It is all there,” Wenger told reporters. “Theo’s first quality is the quality of his reception.
“That means the timing of his movement, where he goes and the area he will get the ball. It is absolutely exceptional, one of the best in the world.
“I think just before he was injured was the best Theo I have ever seen. He had a good balance between being physical, using his pace, and the quality of his finishing had improved tremendously.
“He’s a great finisher now. I think what he needs is to be a long time without injury. He is 25, and it’s the right age for him. It’s now that is decisive for his career, 25 to 30.”
Walcott’s contract expires in 2016 and Wenger admits that talks over a new deal are “never easy”, though he would like to retain the former Southampton starlet.
“He has still 18 months to go [on his contract],” said Wenger. “It’s the sort of time we think about it.”