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By ESPN Staff

Wenger warns Pearce not to pick Walcott for U21s

Arsene Wenger and the Football Association are in a club-versus-country war over Theo Walcott's involvement in England Under-21s' European Championships this summer.

Arsenal boss Wenger does not want Walcott to go to Sweden with Stuart Pearce's youngsters after World Cup qualifiers with the seniors, although the 20-year-old is happy to play through the summer.

The last time Walcott went on international duty he returned to his club with a dislocated shoulder and was out for four months. Wenger wants to protect his winger and feels he has the understanding of England boss Fabio Capello but not Pearce.

Wenger said: ''My feeling is that I am against it, and I have let the FA know that he shouldn't play in both national teams during the holiday period.

''It is difficult for us to accept that, but the rules are on the sides of the federation, and we cannot do anything about it.

''But I have let them know that it is not logical that he plays for the first team and the Under-21s during the holiday period, they finish on June 28 and we start training on July 6.''

There are two weeks before England face Kazakhstan and Andorra, then Walcott is expected to go on Under-21 duty. It is understood that he is in Pearce's provisional 29-man squad that will be reduced to a final 23 on Wednesday.

Wenger, outlining how Pearce does not appreciate his situation, added: ''Capello is comprehensive, and Stuart Pearce is less comprehensive. That is because Capello uses him and then after it is a problem of Stuart Pearce.

''I have nothing against the senior side, that is the normal FIFA dates. The basic problem is can you use a player for two different national teams during the holiday period?

''I do not want to stop Theo from playing for the Under-21s, but during the holiday period, they should choose one or the other. Of course he wants to play, and I can understand that as well.''

Walcott is fully committed to playing for both teams. He played a key role in the Under-21s qualifying for the tournament and would like a shot at glory.

''I had four months out, so I am looking forward to it,'' said Walcott. ''You want to pull on an England shirt, for whatever age group, and are 100% into it.

''For me, personally, any age group that I go into will be 100%. You should be proud to play for your country.

''It is international duties, and every single player that will be there will put 100% in. I am ready for the challenge and it will be a great experience for my career.''

With Walcott's summer schedule set to be decided this week, an FA spokesman said: ''Conversations are ongoing between all and we want the best for the player and for the England teams.''

Meanwhile, David Wheater will be unavailable for the Under-21s as he is set for keyhole surgery on his knee.

''Yes, I'm out,'' he said. ''I'm having the operation on Thursday and it'll be four or five weeks after that.''

West Ham defender James Tomkins is in the frame to make the step up from the Under-20s to deputise for Wheater in defence.

There are serious doubts over Tottenham trio Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon and Jamie O'Hara due to injuries but Hammers midfielder Mark Noble is expected to be fit despite picking up a groin problem against Middlesbrough at the weekend.

''I'll rest this week and I'll be fit enough to go with England Under-21s to the camp in Spain,'' Noble said. ''We'll monitor it as we go along.''


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