Arsene Wenger has come to the defence of Theo Walcott after post-England criticism.

The winger was handed his first start for his country in 18 months against Italy and was largely ineffective, prompting criticism in the media.

Theo, who was sidelined for a year with a knee injury picked up against Spurs, has struggled to show anything like the form we know he is capable of since returning to the side and is unable to get a start for the Gunners.

Perhaps Wenger’s explanation of why he underperformed against Italy could also be applied to his Arsenal form.

“I don’t worry about Theo because he’s not completely there yet and I told you that a few times,” Wenger said. “He has been out for a year with a very bad injury and he’s coming back. But being exposed like that, people have a harsh judgment on him that is not deserved because he does well.

“For me, he is on course to come back but he’s not completely there.

“He is not fragile mentally, he is strong mentally,” the manager added. “But he is disappointed because when you come back you always think you are ready.

“He needs patience. He is at the moment not in his best mood.

“He is not a fragile type. He has big confidence in himself and he has gone through some difficult periods in his life and he has always come out with strength.”

It’s unlikely that Theo will get a now-rare start against Liverpool at the weekend but his pace is certainly a weapon the Scousers will be only too aware of, whatever time Wenger chooses to introduce him.