Arsenal manager admitted he considered selecting Theo Walcott for tomorrow’s game against Sunderland but conceded that he is not yet match fit.
The England international is closing on a first-team return after featuring for the under-21s last week, and the manager has been impressed by Walcott’s positive attitude during this nine-month lay-off.
“He had a very difficult time,” said Wenger. “He’s a very polite and social guy, but behind that, he’s mentally strong as well.”
“For what he has gone through in the last nine months, you gain even more respect for him, because he had some difficult times and always responded very positively. He’s got a young baby, where they had some problems, but he has done extremely well.”
“[Theo] had some difficult times and always responded very positively. I am not sure to involve him tomorrow. Certainly next week.”
“He has to get used to contact again. He has been out for nine months, it was a big injury and it takes time to settle, to get used to being kicked again.”
“He has a game that exposes him and he needs to feel completely confident. But he is not far. I think fitness wise he is there, to play a part in the game on the contact front I think he needs a little bit more time.”
Abou Diaby, who has spent much of this year on the sidelines, will not feature at Sunderland – the opposition against whom he suffered his first serious injury in an Arsenal shirt way back in 2006.
“He is not in the squad because he has a small calf problem,” explained Wenger. “He has little injuries at the moment, never anything bad, but he has been out for such a long time that when he plays it takes him a long time to recover.”
“It’s much worse for Abou because Theo has not gone through so many injuries. You wonder where Abou gets the strength back to come back and work harder and harder and harder.”
“When you come in in the morning he’s already in the gym to prepare. He has done extremely well – you cannot fault his attitude at all. You can only admire him for that. He is always in my mind. His first injury at Sunderland in the last minute – that was a huge blow in his career.”
Aaron Ramsey, on the contrary, has happier memories of Sunderland – he scored a brace against them in a 3-1 win last season – and Wenger expects the Welsh midfielder to re-produce that display.
“He had a good rest,” said the manager. “Now we expect him to produce his performances that he produced last season. I think he is there and that will come naturally.”
There is less positive news regarding defender Laurent Koscielny, who is set to remain on the sidelines due to an Achilles problem.
“I cannot give you any date,” Wenger added. “I hope he [Koscielny] will be available after the next international break.”