Wenger tells Sven: Take a gamble on Walcott

May 6, 2006

Arsene Wenger has urged England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson to take a 'big gamble' by taking Theo Walcott to the World Cup.

The teenage forward joined Arsenal from Southampton in January for a fee which could rise to £12million, however he has yet to make his first-team debut.

Nevertheless, Wenger feels Walcott could be a potent weapon in Germany this summer, where England could have to make do without star striker Wayne Rooney.

The Arsenal boss declared: 'I think he has something special. He could be a pleasant surprise, but, of course, it is a big gamble.

'Theo is only 17 years old and it is a big pressure to have - but I would not stop Sven from picking him.

'When Sven asks me about a player, I always give him my opinion - and I regard Walcott as a big prospect.'

Wenger admits Walcott, who had been troubled by a shoulder problem in recent weeks, 'needs games' and accepted: 'At the moment we are playing so many matches that it is difficult to integrate him but he has the quality to do well.

'I have wanted for years now to be able to name at least 18 players in my squad - and if I had the choice to have a player like Walcott more involved in the A-team then I would and he would certainly have come on.

'For example, when you are 3-0 up at Sunderland rather than bringing on an older player I would say 'Okay, go on and have 20 minutes'. Then you could afford to do it.

'But when you pick the squad before the game you are thinking that it will be a very tight game and you take an experienced player because you are at a stage when every point counts.

'However, if I had room for 18, I would put in him in and then when the score is 3-0, I could put him on.'

Wenger understands Eriksson's dilemma over Rooney, the Manchester United striker having suffered a broken foot which is likely to rule him out for at least six weeks.

However, the Arsenal boss can see the reasoning behind the Swede's keenness to take the 20-year-old.

Wenger said: 'I am quite keen on that. You can afford one, but not three who are half-ready. Rooney is the exception you can afford.'

Wenger reflected: 'I have to remind you of one thing - France won the World Cup with one striker that did not score a goal. It can help the team. They (forwards) scored zero goals and before the tournament all the focus is on who can score - but France won when their strikers scored no goals.'