Wenger says Walcott better than ever despite England axing

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The Gunner has scored 17 goals this season but was still left out of the Three Lions squad in a decision that surprised many

Theo Walcott was axed from the England squad on his 28th birthday but Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes the forward has become a more complete player this season.

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England manager Gareth Southgate confirmed to reporters Walcott "wasn't chuffed to bits" to be informed he had been overlooked for this months' games against Germany and Lithuania in favour of the likes of uncapped duo Nathan Redmond and Michail Antonio.

Walcott made the point to Southgate he is one of the leading goalscorers in England and, with 17 in 29 appearances he is on target to overhaul his best ever return of 21 from the 2012-13 season.

"Theo has become more of a complete player, more efficient," Wenger said ahead of Arsenal's trip to West Brom, where he addressed Walcott's history of being snubbed for England's 2010 World Cup and Euro 2016 squads, while injury ruled him out of Brazil 2014.

"He can influence games. He is a focused player and he was not picked for the European Championship.

"Always in life, you try to get to the next level when things don’t go for you – or you think you did everything right and continue to live like you did before.

"He had the right response. He said: 'What do I need to do to get higher up?' And he did it."

HD Theo Walcott England

Sunderland's Jermain Defoe earned his first call-up since 2013 after varying fitness issues for Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney left Southgate short in attack.

Wenger has previously talked up Walcott's potential to operate as a central striker but now accepts his best position is on the right wing.

"I was always convinced, because of the quality of his runs, he was a central striker," he added. "For a while he was as well but he made up his mind during the summer break and he feels more comfortable on the right.

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"He is fair. He said if you want me I will play through the middle but if you give me the choice I would prefer to play on the right.

"It is his preferred position and it is true that is where he is most efficient."

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