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By ESPN Staff
Aug 24, 2006

Wenger: Walcott forcing his way in

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits he soon may have little option but to start Theo Walcott on a regular basis.

The 17-year-old England starlet came off the bench for the second match running in Wednesday night's Champions League qualifying tie.

Walcott's injection of pace helped turned a draw into victory, setting up Mathieu Flamini for a stoppage-time tap-in as the Gunners came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory on the night and book their place in today's draw for the group stages.

It could have been a much worse scenario facing the Arsenal manager heading into the closing stages had Zagreb converted any more of their chances to add to Eduardo's early goal, with Freddie Ljungberg eventually heading in an equaliser before Walcott's late cameo.

Wenger knows it is only a matter of time before the former Southampton trainee forces himself into his first XI.

'When he comes on you see he can make a difference because of his penetrating power and his speed,' Wenger noted.

'However, you also see that sometimes in some movements he is still a bit young so you have to give him time to lose that slowly and of course to come out with his strengths - but in the last two games he brought two goals.'

Wenger declared: 'If he comes every time on and creates a goal I will not leave him out for a long time.

'It is positive as well because I think people believe in me so let's just play how I can and when he comes on with his pace and the team is already tired, it is easier for him to be efficient.'

Wenger was happy enough to have seen his side recover from a 'sloppy start'.

He said: 'When you do not start very well, it is always difficult to come back in a convincing manner.

'We had merit to come back and win the game because in the second half, it was all us.'

The Arsenal boss did, though, accept with his team having already secured a healthy 3-0 advantage from the first leg in Croatia a fortnight ago, last night's match was always going to be a tricky one to approach.

Wenger said: 'It is difficult psychologically when you are 3-0 up to go into a game like mad.'

The Arsenal boss added: 'It is a relief because you know how much implication that game has on the whole season, not only financially but for us as a team to have that extra-special motivation to be part of the best in Europe.'

Wenger declared: 'We are happy to be in the pot. We take now who comes in there because we know we can do well.'

Josep Kuze felt his side had learned a lot from the experience against one of Europe's premier clubs.

He said: 'Although we lost, we will go away having made a good impression and hopefully that can now translate into better form in the league as well.'