Arsene Wenger concerned about mental impact of injury on Theo Walcott

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In January 2014 Theo Walcott ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and the pacey Arsenal attacker hasn’t started a game since.

On New Year’s Day Walcott is expected to be on the bench against his old team Southampton (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra) as he recovers from a groin injury he suffered in November.

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Walcott, 25, pushed himself hard to recover from the initial knee injury and made two brief substitute appearances in November before being injured on international duty with England.

He has not featured since and ahead of Arsenal’s game against Southampton, Arsene Wenger spoke about Walcott’s edgy nature in training as he returns towards full fitness.

“He has been out for one year,” Wenger said. “He has to go for contact and today, the game does not forgive you any lack of contact or defensive focus. We have to get that. He is certainly a bit edgy as he has been out for so long. About the first tackle? Yes, of course. You must have that in your mind and have to go through that.”

Walcott’s return to fitness will give the Gunners a huge boost as he scored 21 goals in the 2012-13 season and had six more in 2013-14 before injury struck. But after spending over 12 months on the sidelines will the speedy winger be the same player?

There’s no doubt he will be rusty, as we have seen it time and time again across the years with those players returning from a serious knee injury taking some time to settle back into the physical demands of the game.

However from Wenger’s words and Walcott’s absence in recent games, it seems as though the England international is struggling to get back into the mindset of full contact and putting his body on the line after spending so much time wrapped in cotton wool during his recovery. That should be a worry for Arsenal’s fans.