Theo Walcott's hopes of a return to the England squad next week have been dashed by a knee injury that means another frustrating spell on the sidelines for the Arsenal winger. The 20-year-old, who had only just completed his recovery from a serious shoulder injury, suffered the fresh setback in training on Friday.
"He will have a scan on his knee today and we are a bit surprised and worried because he was in very good form coming back," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted.
"That is very bad news for us. Out for the rest of the season would be too long, but certainly he is out of the squad for the Newcastle game tomorrow and he could be out of the squad for England."
Wenger added: "Theo locked his knee when he was walking back from training, so it could be a cartilage. Training was fully normal and maybe he has done it in training and it came out when he stopped. But we have to see how he responds today. I hope that it is not serious, but he has to be scanned."
Walcott had been named in England's U-21 squad for matches next week but a good display at Newcastle on Saturday may have resulted in promotion into Fabio Capello's senior squad for next week's friendly against Slovakia, which is followed by a World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.
We have to see how he responds today. I hope that it is not serious, but he has to be scanned.
Arsenal go into Saturday's match looking to keep their noses in front of Aston Villa in the battle for fourth place and the Premier League's finally qualifying place for next season's UEFA Champions League and Wenger admits he is worried that the international break could affect his side's recent momentum.
"Now many of the team go away on international duty and I hope we do not lose players through injuries because many of our players are coming back now from injuries. It looks like we are in a good situation. Cesc Fabregas should be fit in two weeks. He is back in full training now and during the international break he has two weeks to sharpen up."
Although his priority is holding off Villa, Wenger has not given up hope of catching the sides above Arsenal. "We have prepared ourselves mentally to give absolutely everything in every game," he said. "It is down to us. I would like to change the order of the top four to get in front of one or two teams."
Wenger added: "The title is not as much done as people think it is. Manchester United has a huge advantage, because they are four points ahead and have a game in hand. But it is still open, because they all still have to play us, so it will be interesting."