Wenger: 'Sensitive' Walcott could be damaged by England experiment

The 26-year-old struggled both as a striker and a No.10 in midweek and the ex-Monaco boss cannot understand Roy Hodgson’s use of the Arsenal winger

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is concerned that Theo Walcott could be mentally damaged after he struggled in an unfamiliar role for England against Italy.

The former Southampton man started up front for the Three Lions in Turin before being moved back to play as a No.10 behind Wayne Rooney, and he struggled to make an impact in either position.

Wenger is thus fearful that the experience could afftect the 26-year-old’s confidence.

“Theo’s sensitive and I’m a bit concerned about the damage that game can have on his mind,” the Gunners boss told reporters. “Being exposed like that, people have a harsh judgment on him that is not deserved.

“No [I have never seen him as a No.10]. Theo’s strength is the quality of his movements. He wants to go to get on the end of things. He’s not a guy who provides.

“I don’t think it was the intention of Roy Hodgson to play him there. It was maybe Rooney who took the initiative during the game to play higher up and tell Theo to drop back.

“I haven’t seen Roy Hodgson in the game standing up to say: ‘Walcott, you come and play in midfield and Rooney you go up front.’ That’s an initiative they took on the pitch.

“It was a complicated game for the strikers because Italy defended with three centre-backs, two players in front of the two centre-backs and England played all in there so there was no room, no space.”

Walcott has hit out at claims that he has begun contract talks with the north Londoners amid reports that he has turned down the offer of a wage cut, though Wenger insists that those discussions have taken place.

The former Monaco boss is confident that any talks that go on behind the scenes will not affect Walcott as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury suffered in January 2014.

Wenger remarked: “I don’t worry about Theo because he’s not completely there yet with his fitness, I told you a few times that he has been out for a year with a very bad injury and he’s coming back. He is on course to come back but he’s not completely there.

“Every time he comes on or when he’s started, he has scored a goal. He is not fragile mentally, he is strong mentally but he is disappointed because, when you come back, you always think you are ready.”

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