Arsene Wenger claims he is worried about the effect England’s game against Italy may have on Theo Walcott, and blames Wayne Rooney for forcing him back into the No.10 role, according to the Telegraph.
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The England international was forced from a striking position to the No.10 role, somewhere he has never played in his entire career – not even in training.
His form understandably suffered, and he came in for some heavy criticism after the game.
Wenger is worried that the game will have a negative impact on him, as he is fragile after recently returning from injury.
“Theo’s sensitive and I’m a bit concerned about the damage that game can have on his mind,” he said.
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“Being exposed like that, people have a harsh judgment on him that is not deserved.”
The manager has blamed Rooney for forcing Walcott into his unfavoured position, where he failed to have any impact whatsoever.
“I don’t think it was the intention of Roy Hodgson to play him there,” he continued.
“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.”
When asked if Walcott had ever been used in a No.10 role before, Wenger claimed he hadn’t even seen him play there during training.
“No [I’ve never seen him play there],” he said.
“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.”
Walcott has struggled for both form and game time since returning from injury, but Wenger claims it’s just a matter of time before he’s back to his best.