Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has claimed that England starlet Theo Walcott, while being different to Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is “more’, with the Gunners boss revealing that Walcott’s timing and running off the ball is a gift the Argentine International did not possess at the same age.
19-year-old Walcott has risen to prominence in recent weeks after scoring a sensational hat-trick for England against Croatia in their World Cup qualifier in Zagreb last month. With the former Southampton player a regular starter for Wenger at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League this season.
“He’s different [to Messi at that age] and I think he’s more,” Wenger told a press conference on Friday.
“If you have to look for a weakness in Messi you would say it is his ability to run without the ball, behind the defender.
“When he takes the ball to his feet he’s like a Ferrari. But Theo is more a guy who has the timing to run off the ball and that is something that is difficult to find.
“We had Marc Overmars who was especially good at that and I’m a great, great lover of movement off the ball.”
The Frenchman has put Walcott’s progress down to the conditioning programme the youngster was put on upon his arrival from the Saints in 2006 to improve his upper body strength, with Wenger claiming Walcott is a much more powerful player than he was six months ago.
"He is a man now in the fight,” Wenger said.
“You feel he has much more power than a year ago, or six months ago.
“We do a bit of strengthening of the upper body but not weights, because I believe in football it's more about coordination.
“Weights make you more rigid and coordination makes you more flexbile and Walcott is a guy who has natural power. He will naturally become a strong upper body player.”