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Arsene Wenger plans to recognize Theo Walcott’s goals by giving him more playing opportunity in the Premier League, but will forge ahead with his plan to rotate his team for Sunday’s visit of Brighton.
Wenger is preparing to summon those rested from Thursday’s trip to Belarus, though Mesut Ozil is unavailable for selection, and Laurent Koscielny remains a doubt.
Walcott has been a peripheral figure this season but only managed two goals during Arsenal’s Europa victory on Thursday, having struggled for selection amid heavy competition from Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette.
The England forward was impressive in his role behind Olivier Giroud and alongside Jack Wilshere, but will not be used against Brighton as Wenger plans to protect his players from hefty work schedule.
The 28-year-old was critical of Arsenal’s underperformance against Crystal Palace whom they lost 3-0 to in April, but Wenger insists that has not affected his selection system and when questioned if Walcott will feature in league games, he answered: “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.”
Giroud scored from the penalty that completed his 100th goal for the North London club when Walcott was pursuing his hat trick.
Wenger insists he is happy for the former Southampton player not to have that “selfish” streak as he prepares to recall the absentees from Thursday’s trip to Belarus.
Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, Sead Kolasinac, Lacazette and Sanchez were among those who remained in London.
“Never encourage them to be selfish because you want them to make the right decisions in front of goal,” said the 67-year-old Frenchman. “Sometimes the right decision is to give the ball and you give the ball.
“Sometimes the right decision is to take your chance and so you take your chance. Overall, all the strikers need in some way to be a little bit selfish. I don’t like the word, but you need a bit of that to score.
“I was pleased that he left the ball for Giroud because it was his 100th goal as well. Yes, he could have scored his hat-trick but Giroud also deserved his 100th goal.”
Ozil’s injury is “very short-term,” Wenger told Arsenal’s website, but it will not allow the German to play this weekend.
The club will examine Koscielny’s Achilles before deciding his fate on Saturday.
Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi could return for the Gunners, but Coquelin (hamstring) and Welbeck (hip) are not an option.