• Premier League

Wenger hints at Walcott return

ESPN staff
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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had hinted that Theo Walcott could be ready to make his first start since mid-September against Manchester City on Saturday.

Walcott has taken longer than expected to recover from an abdominal operation, yet Wenger has claimed his England midfielder is finally getting back to his best ahead of the trip to the Etihad Stadium.

Walcott's return would be a huge boost to an Arsenal side that have been showing signs of fatigue in recent games, while German forward Lukas Podolski is also closing in on a return ahead of the hectic festive fixture list.

"This week he has found back his normal level," Wenger said. "It took him a while to get back to real sharpness. He has come from surgery, it took him a while to get back to full power. I have not decided yet [whether he will start against City].

"Podolski is available. He is still a bit short to go into a match of this level and intensity [at City]. After this weekend, consider him available."

The absence of Walcott and Podolski has exposed the frailty of the Arsenal squad in recent weeks, yet Wenger was eager to play down suggestions that he will look to address those issues with a spending splurge in the upcoming transfer window.

"We will assess the [transfer] situation in January," Wenger said. "At the moment, we are like every club focused on the short term. The transfer market, usually in January is normally more talk that concrete signings. The clubs that struggled last season not to go down, even though that bought a lot it, it doesn't help a lot."

Meanwhile, Wenger dismissed reports that Arsenal's success in qualifying for the last-16 of the Champions League will trigger his decision to sign a new contract with the club, as he insisted he is in no rush to extend his current deal that expires next summer.

"It is not linked at all with [qualifying for the Champions League knock-out stages]. I am very relaxed, focused and committed," Wenger added.

Meanwhile, Walcott announced on his official Facebook page that he is to become a father for the first time.

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