Arsene Wenger plans to reward Theo Walcott for his goals against BATE Borisov with more Premier League minutes, but will persevere with plans to rotate his team for Sunday’s visit of Brighton.
Walcott has been a peripheral figure this season but scored twice during Arsenal’s Europa League victory on Thursday, having struggled for selection amid competition from Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette.
The England forward impressed in his role behind Olivier Giroud and alongside Jack Wilshere, but will not be retained against Brighton because of Wenger’s plans to protect his players from a demanding schedule.
The 28-year-old was critical of Arsenal’s poor performance when they lost 3-0 at Crystal Palace in April, but Wenger insists that has had no influence on selection and, when asked if Walcott will be used in the league, responded: ”Yes. (But) the competition up front is hard.
”I have Sanchez, I have Walcott. I have shown Theo I have confidence in him for a big game (at BATE). I have a different schedule for the players who have played the full 90 (on Thursday); I will rotate again on Sunday.
”I don’t relate the selection to (Walcott’s post-Palace comments) at all. I have experienced many times statements after the games, so it is nothing to do with that. It is just I have many strikers of top quality.
”Lucas Perez I have given out on loan so that is why I have all these decisions to make on that front. It is important to give them enough games.
”He could have scored more (at BATE), but his strength is scoring goals. He can score goals: he is a good finisher and had two or three more chances. But as long as the team played very well, there were plenty of chances.
”He has good quality in the timing of his runs and the quality of his runs. He goes into areas where he is dangerous.”
Brighton boss Chris Hughton is out to mastermind another surprise home defeat for Arsenal.
The Seagulls head to Emirates Stadium on Sunday as huge underdogs against Sanchez, Lacazette and company.
Yet Hughton is the last manager of a newly-promoted side to beat Arsenal on their own turf, when his Newcastle team won 1-0 in 2010.
That Arsenal side were no slouches, either, with Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas in midfield and Robin van Persie summoned from the bench.
But Hughton has fond memories of getting the better of Wenger that day and hopes for a similar against-the-odds performance in Sunday’s Premier League clash.
“Yes, I remember it well, an Andy Carroll header,” smiled Hughton.
“That’s what the challenge is for us. There can’t be anywhere in this division that you can afford the feeling that you can’t get anything.
“What we know is, on a day like Sunday, we will have to have things go our way, we will have to play to a really good level and probably face an Arsenal team who don’t play at their best.
“Probably there is more pressure on Arsenal to to win the game than on ourselves – most people wouldn’t expect us to get anything but that’s the great opportunity we have.”