After having made his return from his long-standing injury problem, winger Theo Walcott looks set to be in contention for a starting spot against Middlesbrough in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Middlesbrough were the giantkillers of the previous round after knocking out reigning Premier League champions Manchester City at the Etihad stadium. This factor alone puts Arsenal at a grave danger of missing out on the chance to defend the cup. Walcott was part of the Arsenal team that lifted this trophy in May. Even though he did not play in the latter stages of the competition after being stretchered off in the knockout stages, Walcott says that he has fond memories of his first trophy with Arsenal.
Walcott has already made his impact on this year’s FA Cup after scoring in the earlier round against Brighton and Hove Albion. Since he is not a regular feature in the Premier League, Wenger can be expected to provide him with some game time against Middlesbrough. After being in contention for an automatic promotion spot only a few weeks ago, there is a danger of Middlesbrough slipping down the table. Since the win over City, they have managed to maintain their form and win three consecutive matches. Manager Karanka, though, will be aware that Arsenal provide a different sort of competition to that of the Championship teams.
“I’m expecting very similar to the Leicester game – they’ve been doing very well in the Championship. They’ve got a good balance between the way they attack and defend. They beat Manchester City away from home, they’re going to be a good team, so you can’t take anything for granted. The last game or two we haven’t started particularly well so we’re going to have to be completely ready because Middlesbrough are challenging to be in the Premier League next year,” said Walcott.