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Theo Walcott 'could start at City'

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hinted that Theo Walcott could make his first start since mid-September against Manchester City on Saturday.

• Wenger: Arsenal can prove a point

Walcott, 24, has taken longer than expected to recover from an abdominal operation, but Wenger said the England international was finally getting back to his best ahead of the trip to the Etihad Stadium.

The winger’s return would be a huge boost to an Arsenal side that has been showing signs of fatigue in recent games, while Lukas Podolski is also closing in on a comeback ahead of the hectic festive fixture list.

“This week he has found back his normal level,” Wenger said of Walcott. “It took him a while to get back to real sharpness. He has come from surgery -- it took him a while to get back to full power. I have not decided yet [whether he will start against City].

“Podolski is available. He is still a bit short to go into a match of this level and intensity. After this weekend, consider him available.”

The absence of Walcott and Podolski has exposed the frailty of Arsenal’s options up front, but Wenger was eager to play down suggestions that he will look to address the issue with a spending spree in the forthcoming transfer window.

“We will assess the [transfer] situation in January,” he said. “At the moment we are, like every club, focused on the short term. The transfer market, usually in January, is normally more talk than concrete signings. The clubs that struggled last season not to go down, even though they bought a lot, it doesn’t help a lot.”

Meanwhile, Wenger dismissed reports that Arsenal’s success in qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League would trigger his decision to sign a new contract with the club, insisting he was in no rush to extend his current deal, which expires next summer.

“It is not linked at all with [qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages],” he said. “I am very relaxed, focused and committed.”

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