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May 6, 2013

Wenger rules out central role for Walcott

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insists he will continue to utilise Theo Walcott in a wide role, despite the forward scoring his 20th goal of the season with a first minute strike against QPR on Saturday.

• Mangan: Arsenal grind it out

Walcott, 24, has made no secret of his desire to play in a central role for the Gunners, having proved his goalscoring ability this season.

The England international has netted 13 Premier League goals and played much of the match at Loftus Road in the middle, but Wenger has refused to make it a permanent position for Walcott.

"He finished in the middle," Wenger said. "I use him on the flank because I try to put a player in the middle who can score goals and having another player on the flank who can score it gives you a little bit of security.

"He (Walcott) is more mature in his finishing. His goal was similar to the one he scored against Manchester United. It's a short back lift. He makes good runs and he is calm now in front of goal.

"When he arrived [from Southampton], in front of goal the ball could go anywhere. Now you see every time he hits the target, he is forcing the keeper into a save. That's why his numbers are so much better."

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who came under scrutiny for his form earlier in the season, proved Arsenal's saviour with a late save from Loic Remy to keep his side in fourth.

"It was a very great save, yes," Wenger said. "When I saw him dive I thought he would not get there, but he extended his final resource very well and he got there.

"It shows the importance of a goalkeeper. We needed him once really and he got there. Remy took the shot very well and very early and you needed a special save.

"He has responded very well. When he came back he was sharper than when I left him out. Our job is to be competitive and he did very well."

Arsenal remain just two points above their north London rivals, who have a game in hand against Chelsea against Wednesday, although Wenger believes his side can survive the pressure applied by Spurs.

"I expected them to win," he said. "We have to go to the end and win our games. We can get 73 points. We have a good chance [of Champions League qualification] if we get 73 points to be there."

Arsenal's fate could be out of their hands if Spurs win all three of their remaining fixtures and defender Per Mertesacker has urged his team-mates to remain defiant against relegation-threatened Wigan and Newcastle.

"We have to wait and see what happens on Wednesday," Mertesacker said. "We have to win, anyway, both the games that are coming. At the moment we're on a good run, but we have still to focus on ourselves.

"We can't drop any points. That is the most important thing for us. What happens on Wednesday is not in our hands."

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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