Arsene Wenger wants Theo Walcott to be the heir to Thierry Henry

Arsene Wenger is ready to unleash a new striker on the Premier League – Theo Walcott.

The Arsenal boss will instruct the England winger to attack defences through the middle as soon as he is fully fit.

Wenger toyed with the idea of playing the former Southampton trainee as a centre-forward five years ago, but continued with him down the flanks.

A knee injury has restricted Walcott’s involvement this season but he came on as a late substitute in the 3-1 win at Hull on Monday.

Wenger says that Walcott, 26, is nearing match fitness again and he now wants to realise his long-term plan for the player.

He said: “It’s not too late for him. I think his position will be as a striker. I have worked with him in both situations, as a striker and as a wide player.

“The quality of his runs is so fantastic with the pace he has, and he is a good finisher now.

“When he was younger, he rushed in front of goal but he has improved now.

“He can be transformed. He is naturally gifted and can play in this position. Olivier Giroud has different qualities: he can head a ball and he plays with his back to goal. Theo is a runner who is capable of going in behind.”

Wenger, of course, transformed the fortunes of another winger who went on to enjoy spectacular success for the Gunners as a forward – Thierry Henry.

And it appears this was always his plan for Walcott.

Wenger added: “I bought him from Southampton when he was 17 because I believe in his qualities as a finisher. The timing of his runs is very intelligent.

“He is at the best age now. Being 26 to 32 as a striker is the best age and I would not like to miss that golden age.”

In the build-up to tomorrow’s clash with Swansea, Wenger confirmed that he will leave the door open for Walcott next season, irrespective of whether he signs a new deal.

Walcott’s current contract has just 12 months left to run but Wenger has no plans to cash in on him.

The Arsenal boss said: “Theo is sharp again but it has taken him a while to get back to that level. Players always think they are ready but they are not.

“He has worked hard and gone through difficult moments. To lose a year of his career is massive. Theo is part of us.

“He loves the club and I think he wants to stay. I don’t think his desire is to leave.”

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The Unbeaten In Manchester Season

By Goonerholic

I saw talk before the match of Arsene setting up to go with an attacking gameplay having secured victories at City and United this season playing a much more compact game than usual. It was no surprise, given those two results, that once again we set our stall at Old Trafford to defend first and foremost, and look to hit the home side on the counter.

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