Henry calls for patience in Walcott's development

February 12, 2007

Arsenal captain Thierry Henry has called for Theo Walcott to be given the time to develop without the expectations of a nation weighing heavily on his young shoulders.

The teenager produced an impressive display against Wigan at Emirates Stadium yesterday, particularly during the opening stages of what was his fourth Premiership start for the Gunners.

Walcott found himself trust into the media spotlight following a big-money move from Southampton just over a year ago and his subsequent controversial inclusion in Sven-Goran Eriksson's ill-fated World Cup squad - when he had not yet played a first-team game at Arsenal.

The attacking winger maintains he is not feeling 'any pressure', and is taking everything in his stride as all part of the learning process.

Gunners captain Henry, though, feels giving Walcott the freedom to play without any added tensions can only benefit both the player and the long-term hopes of the England team.

'One thing about Theo for all of us to remember is that he is only 17,' said Henry.

'I know it is not easy for you guys because he is a great prospect for England, but I do think people have to remember he is 17.

'When you are 17 and you go into the World Cup with people thinking you are going to save the country... being out there at 17 years old with all the expectation you are putting on him sometimes... what we need to do is let him mature and get stronger.

'It is not an easy time when you are 17 - trust me, I was there. I was struggling at 17.

'Against Wigan, Theo had a great game. All of the opportunities we had in the first half were coming from Theo.'

Henry accepted his side had been somewhat fortunate to take all three points from yesterday's match against the Latics, who are scrapping for top-flight survival.

Referee Phil Dowd was blasted by Wigan manager Paul Jewell after turning down what looked a strong penalty shout from Emile Heskey when the visitors were then leading 1-0.

The Gunners, though, had the final word when defender Fitz Hall - under pressure from Henry - put past his own keeper and then Tomas Rosicky headed a late winner.

The result both maintained Arsenal's unbeaten home record, and also closed the gap on third-placed Liverpool to a point, with a match in hand.

It may not have been the most flowing of performances from Arsene Wenger's men, but Henry accepted the end product was all that mattered.

'Once again we came back into the game with desire, passion and commitment,' said the French striker, who was less than impressed by the time-wasting antics of Latics keeper Chris Kirkland.

'We got hammered sometimes by playing good football and not winning games.

'At the moment we are coming back into games when maybe we are not playing the best that we can play - but who cares? We are getting points.'

Henry added: 'Trust me, we are not doing that on purpose, to be 1-0 down and I am sure there were people who thought this was the day [to lose at Emirates].

'We were joking about it at the end, saying we have to stop being 1-0 down. Like at Middlesbrough, we went up a gear when we had been 1-0 down and only playing with 10 men.

'Somehow we always manage to get back into it.

'This team is growing in that way because two years ago I remember being behind against some teams and we did not find the resources to come back to it.'

Arsenal face something of a hectic fixture schedule, with a midweek FA Cup fourth-round replay at Bolton before a potential showdown against Blackburn on Saturday, then the resumption of their Champions League campaign away to PSV Eindhoven and the small matter of the Carling Cup final against Chelsea in Cardiff on February 25.

Although it would seem a late charge for the Premier League title is beyond their reach given Manchester United's current significant lead, Henry stressed the importance of focusing on the job in hand.

He said: 'If you take the Sheffield United result out of the equation, then we are having a great run.

'At the moment, we are just going to try to do what we can.

'If you concentrate on other teams, you do not actually do what you have to do with your team.'