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Sep 27, 2012

Wright: Walcott should play as a striker

Arsenal legend Ian Wright has backed Theo Walcott's plea to be given the chance to prove his worth as a striker and has urged the club's hierarchy to resolve his contract dispute before another star name is allowed to leave the club.

• Wenger: Walcott must be patient

Walcott was among the goals as the Gunners notched a 6-1 win against Coventry in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night, but Wenger insists his England winger will "have to be patient" before he is given a chance to lead the line in his team.

After the 23-year-old stated earlier this week that he was eager to be given a chance to follow in Thierry Henry's footsteps and emerge from a role on the flank to become a top class striker, former Arsenal striker Wright has endorsed Walcott's bid to launch the second phase of his career in the position he made his own in seven years at the club.

"I love Theo and have been saying for a long time that he should be playing as a striker," Wright told ESPN. "Clearly he is not the finished article and could do with some more work from the Arsenal coaches, but Theo has all the ingredients to be a top striker.

"Wenger has been saying for a long time that he sees Theo developing into a striker, so give the guy a chance to prove he can do it. If it doesn't work, then fair enough, but give it has to be worth a try."

Walcott has been jeered by sections of the Arsenal faithful this season as his ongoing contract dispute continues to capture headlines, but the striker who scored 185 goals for Arsenal suggests the ridicule that flows in the direction of the speedy forward from sections of the Emirates Stadium faithful is unjustified.

"My hope is the fans get Theo's contract situation sorted and then he can get on with showing what he can do on the field," Wright said. "There are so many good things about this guy, but people always tend to focus on the negatives.

"The trouble for me is that people believe he should be doing more than he does every week and that expectation around him isn't all his own fault. There he was at 16, never played for Arsenal in the Premier League and he was thrown into the England World Cup squad in 2006. It was stupid. Ever since, people want him to win games on his own every week and nothing he does is good enough.

"I hear so many people slagging off Premier League footballers for being bad role models, but Theo is a great asset to our game. He is a solid young man, articulate and never gets himself into trouble on or off the pitch. What more could you want from a guy in a high profile position? So I hope the Arsenal fans give him a bit of a break instead of getting on his back."

Wright believes the example being set by Walcott and his like could help to change the public's negative perception of wealthy modern day footballers, with the unfavourable contrast painted by the large sections media when comparing Britain's triumphant 2012 Olympians and soccer players riling the Arsenal icon.

"I respect what the amateur athletes did at London 2012, but I wasn't too impressed with the way everyone seemed to go out of their way to say these sports men and women were all a whole lot better than footballers," he added. "Why slate footballers just because the Olympic athletes did well for a couple of weeks? Look into what footballers do with their money, the good work they do for charity, before you start slagging them off. Not all footballers should be tarred with the same brush, but they are an easy target.

"People see footballers as spoilt brats and they are jealous of working class lads doing well for themselves, but this is all nonsense. Footballers shouldn't the fall guys just to make the Team GB stars look good. If an Olympic athlete falls out of a nightclub in the next few months, will that get the kind of coverage a footballer seems to get. I bet they don't.

"Let's not forget, it cost billions of pounds to stage the Olympics in London, so I never jumped on the bandwagon to go along with the idea that the Olympics saved the nation. Maybe we could have spent that money on better things."

Read our exclusive and explosive interview with Ian Wright on ESPNFC this weekend.

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