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By ESPN Staff

Walcott closing in on return to first team action

England winger Theo Walcott hopes to be back in action for Arsenal by the end of the month.

The 19-year-old has been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury while on international duty in November, which required surgery.

The attack-minded youngster - who netted a hat-trick for England in the World Cup qualifying win over Croatia - has been sorely missed by Arsenal, whose title challenge has faded as they currently sit six points outside the top four of the Premier League.

Walcott, though, feels he could soon be back in contention, perhaps even in time to feature in the Champions League last-16 clash against Roma, which is split over two legs on February 24 and March 11.

"I am nearly there, and hopefully [will be back] by the end of this month,'' Walcott told Arsenal's official website. "I am doing a lot of rehab work now with the shoulder, landing on it, and also in the gym with a lot of weights to build the muscle strength back.''

The England winger continued: "I just feel it will be when I am ready. Obviously I do not want to do it again, so I have got to be 100% fit.''

Walcott revealed the shoulder problem was something of an inherited condition, but believes the latest operation will see him return stronger.

"My dad had an operation on his right side (shoulder) as well, and when I had my left side done, they did a scan on my right and said that something might have to be done at a different stage,'' Walcott added.

"So actually it is good that it has come when I am young, and hopefully now it will be as strong as anything.''

While the Gunners may be playing catch-up on the top four, with Chelsea now their closest target, their unbeaten run in the league was extended to 11 games with a battling goalless draw at Tottenham, where they had played most of the game with only 10 men following the sending-off of Emmanuel Eboue.

New signing Andrei Arshavin was on the bench at White Hart Lane, and Walcott cannot wait to team-up with the Russian forward.

"Hopefully when I am back fit again, I can play a lot of football with him,'' said Walcott.

"When he gets his [match] fitness back up, he will be a top player for us, definitely.

"I have seen him on YouTube a lot, watching how he plays, the balls he can spot. He can do unbelievable passes.

"He is going to be a good addition to the squad.''

Arshavin is ineligible for Arsenal's next game, which is the FA Cup fourth-round replay against Cardiff at Emirates on Monday February 16, after only completing his transfer from Zenit St Petersburg on deadline day.

Eboue will serve a one-match suspension after his two yellow cards on Sunday, but there is a chance striker Eduardo could feature having been named among the Arsenal substitutes at Tottenham, featuring for the first time since breaking his leg almost 12 months ago.

Full-back Gael Clichy (cut head) should be fit to face the Bluebirds, but Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor is set to be sidelined for around three weeks with a hamstring problem which saw him carried off on a stretcher at White Hart Lane.


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