Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes Theo Walcott's return to action in their 8 March FA Cup fifth round match against Burnley will give Arsenal the momentum to keep their season alive. Walcott is back after surgery on a shoulder injury sustained during training with England before their November friendly against Germany. The 19-year-old, who last played for Arsenal on November 15, was in fine form before the injury and Wenger believes he can have a significant impact on a big week for the Gunners.
Victory over Championship club Burnley at the Emirates Stadium would set up a winnable home clash with Hull City in the quarter-finals. Then Wenger's side travel to Italy for Wednesday's second leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie against Roma, hoping to hold onto their one-goal lead. Wenger knows Walcott's shoulder will be tested by the physical demands of top-level competition, but he expect the teenager to cope.
"It is very important to see how he will respond with his shoulder and I think he looks to be nearly there. To have him back is great and he can be very good for us," Wenger said. "However, the difference between training and competition is different. Theo is very fit, but after that you have to get used to tackles and go into the challenges."
Walcott's return and that of Croatia striker Eduardo are perfectly timed for Wenger, who has seen his side struggle to score in recent weeks. Arsenal ended a run of four successive goalless league draws by beating bottom of the table West Bromwich Albion in midweek, but Wenger knows he needs as many attacking options as possible for the sterner tests that lie ahead, starting with Owen Coyle's Burnley. Wenger will not underestimate the challenge posed by the Clarets, who knocked Arsenal out of the League Cup at Turf Moor in December and also beat Chelsea and Fulham in the same competition.
"It is an important game and not one we will treat lightly. We treat it with respect and focus," Wenger said. "We know Burnley well and that they are a good side. The Championship teams are now a serious candidate in every game. They have shown that recently, and we have the experience of playing Championship teams. The gap has been reduced between Championship teams and the Premier League. You see that in the results of the FA Cup and League Cup."
Wenger is set to rotate some of his personnel on 8 March, with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski given another chance to impress, but defender Kolo Toure, who has a calf injury, will not be risked. Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor is unlikely to be match fit in time for the Roma game as he battles to recover from his own hamstring injury.
"I have to measure the consequence of resting one or two players more and having a bad game, and of making sure we get through," Wenger said. "You give your best and make sure it works, so we will give our best and it will work. The best way to prepare for the next game against Roma is to win on Sunday."
Burnley have impressed this season and Coyle insists he has no intention of playing for a draw at the Emirates."Whoever plays for Arsenal, you can guarantee they'll be an international player and that in itself tells you the enormity of the task," Coyle said.
"But we're going to look to be positive in the game, commit players forward at each and every opportunity and see where it takes us," he added. "I've said before, I'm not going to set a team out to go and stop the game. We're taking over 5,000 fans and it would be remiss of me to just sit behind the ball and not offer anything in terms of an attacking threat."