Arsenal's attacking options bolstered as Walcott returns

Thu Nov 21, 2013 2:23pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - Premier League leaders Arsenal have received a boost with the inclusion of Theo Walcott in the squad for Saturday's match at home to his old club Southampton while Lukas Podolski's return is less than a month away.

Manager Arsene Wenger has hailed the availability of England international Walcott, who he signed as a 16-year-old in 2006, after the forward's season was interrupted by an abdominal operation in September.

"Strikers who get behind the defenders have a very important quality and Theo has that quality," Wenger was quoted as saying on Arsenal's official website ( on Thursday ahead of the league leaders' clash with the third-placed Saints.

"Of course you miss a player like Theo Walcott. Theo had a good start to the season, he scored goals, he provided chances and had assists. He can always give you a different option in the game and that is of course vital."

Wenger said that although the pacy forward had now fully recovered from surgery, his lack of match fitness meant he would be used cautiously against Southampton who are only three points behind Arsenal after a superb start to the season.

"He has not played for a long time, of course, he has not played even a reserve team game, but I will put him in the squad on Saturday," said the Frenchman.

Although Arsenal failed to find the net in their last game at Manchester United, which they lost 1-0, 22 league goals this season makes them second-top scorers behind Manchester City.

But while Wenger said he was happy with his forward line in recent games, Walcott's return provides more options.


Arsenal's Theo Walcott reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Wigan Athletic in Wigan, northern England, April 18, 2010. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis