2006-02-21

Arsenal may use 16-year-old Walcott against Real Madrid

Arsenal FC may give Theo Walcott - with only 16 years old - his debut as the injury-hit English team seeks an upset in today's Champions League game at Real Madrid, coach Arsene Wenger suggested.

In fact, Walcott, signed from Southampton for as much as 12 million pounds ($20.9 million) on Jan. 20, might come on as a substitute in the first leg of the round of 16 match, Wenger told a news conference in Madrid.

``He's doing good in training and if I think he can bring us something coming on I will do it,'' Wenger said.

Indeed, beating the record nine-time European champion over two legs without injured first-team regulars including Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and Lauren would be ``one of the biggest achievements,'' according to Wenger.

``I'm confident we can make it,'' the Frenchman, whose team has never reached the Champions League semifinals, said. ``The players have not only quality but character. I believe my players don't get the credit they deserve.''

It's important to notice that it may be Arsenal and Real Madrid's best chance of success this season, with them lagging in their national leagues and out of domestic cup competitions. Madrid trails Spanish league leader Barcelona by seven points, while Arsenal is 25 points adrift of Chelsea.

Arsenal, facing its first trophy-less season since 2001, won four of 11 games this year, losing to Wigan, Everton, Bolton, West Ham and Liverpool. Madrid won 11 of 13 in 2006 under former reserve-team coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro.

``We're on form but statistics and the past don't count for anything,'' Lopez Caro told a news conference. ``Arsenal is one of the best teams in the universe.''

No comments: