Arsene Wenger admits he does not know what the future holds for Theo Walcott — with the England forward currently a bit-part player at the Emirates Stadium.
Walcott has not started a Premier League game since the 3-2 defeat at Manchester United on February 28 and has been limited to substitute appearances of late.
The 27-year-old has fallen behind the likes of teenager Alex Iwobi and fit-again Danny Welbeck in Wenger’s pecking order — with just five league goals to his name this season.
And, with his place in Roy Hodgson’s squad for this summer’s European Championships still in the balance, Wenger conceded he is unsure where Walcott will be plying his trade next season.
Asked if Walcott could leave, Wenger replied: “I don’t know yet. I’m not in transfer mode at the moment but I think he has gone through a bad spell. He has responded very well, because he said ‘OK, I will work harder and more.’
“Even when he comes on now, you see he is motivated and focused. Let’s see how well he finishes the season now.”
Despite a number of first-team regulars missing Thursday night’s 2-0 win over West Brom, Walcott was again restricted to a four-minute cameo off the bench.
And Wenger admits Walcott, as well as other players not featuring regularly, are frustrated at their lack of game-time.
“Of course. Tonight you have seen the team,” he said when asked if he could understand Walcott’s frustration at not playing much.
“You have the emergence of a guy like Iwobi. But the players that did not play: Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and I forget a few that weren’t even in the squad.
“All these players will be frustrated, or the guys who go out will be frustrated. Welbeck didn’t play, Campbell didn’t play.”
After a season of potential title success looks set to end with the Gunners empty-handed, Wenger’s own future has again come under the spotlight.
The win over West Brom was watched by a reduced crowd as fans stayed away from the Emirates Stadium in protest, or simply apathy, for the season.
And, despite a 20th consecutive season of Champions League football now looking likely given the win over the Baggies, Wenger knows simply delivering another top-four finish is not acceptable.
“Look, at the moment, no matter what I say or what I do, it’s fashion to not be good enough,” he said on finishing in the top four.
“I do not want to add anything. We won our 500th Premier League game tonight and it’s not too bad. It’s never enough anyway, for me as well, and I can accept that.
“What can I do? You know the modern world is like that and we have to live with it.”