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By ESPN Staff
Aug 4, 2008

Gunners' Wenger hails improvement in Walcott

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger expects big things from Theo Walcott next season.

The England Under-21 international was part of a near full-strength XI for the final match of the Emirates Cup against Spanish giants Real Madrid yesterday, which the Gunners won 1-0.

The 19-year-old has come along way since arriving under the media spotlight from Southampton during January 2006.

Wenger is confident Walcott - a controversial selection for Sven-Goran Eriksson's ill-fated World Cup squad two years ago - can continue to go from strength to strength.

'Theo is ahead of what he was doing at this period last season and he is still 19,' said Wenger.

'I hope Theo will be a big part of the squad this season.

'I have confidence in him of course, but it is down to performances.

'His first touch his much better and he moves the ball quicker. His penetration and final ball is better.

'There is goalscoring potential in him and I hope he gets it out of him.'

Wenger used the Emirates Cup as well as the recent tour of Austria to give some of his youngsters a taste of senior football.

Those included 16-year-old Jack Wilshere, who again impressed when he came of the bench against Real yesterday.

The Arsenal boss said: 'We cannot put any limitation on his participation in the team.

'The quality is there, I don't look too much at his age, just what he is doing on the pitch and at the moment the quality is good.'

Many of the pre-tournament headlines had been taken up by the future of Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who has now committed himself to Arsenal.

The striker - who was top scorer with 30 last season - had been the subject of fevered transfer speculation during the summer.

However, that was all dismissed as pure conjecture when it was announced on Friday that Adebayor would in fact now sign a new contract extension with the Gunners.

Before Saturday's opening game of the Emirates Cup against Juventus, some sections of the home crowd had let their frustrations be known, which Wenger later described as 'disappointed love'.

However, the 6ft 3ins African was all smiles again yesterday afternoon as he converted what proved to be a winning penalty against Real Madrid five minutes into the second-half - and kissed the badge in celebration with the fans behind the goal.

'I feel Adebayor felt people questioned his commitment a little bit and the best answer always is to give on the pitch,' Wenger said.

'You play well and show you are ready to fight for your shirt and your team. He does that. He is a man with character.

'You know how it is. If you score goals people forget quickly their frustration. You have to show it with performances in this job.'

Hamburg - now managed by former Tottenham boss Martin Jol - secured the Emirates Cup trophy after they beat Juventus 3-0 in yesterday's other match.

Arsenal will continue their build-up to the new campaign - which starts with a Champions League qualifier against Steve McClaren's Dutch side FC Twente - with a trip to Huddersfield in midweek ahead of the Amsterdam Tournament.

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