ENGLAND’S bid to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil has suffered a blow after it was confirmed that Arsenal winger Theo Walcott is to miss the final two qualifying matches.
Walcott has been ruled out of next month’s decisive Wembley fixtures against Montenegro and Poland after suffering an abdominal injury that initially puzzled Arsenal doctors.
The 24-year-old has since been diagnosed with damage to his posterior abdominal wall and is poised to undergo surgery in Germany today, before “a few weeks” of rehab, according to Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.
England must win their two remaining Group H matches to be certain of reaching next year’s finals but are still to beat any of their three qualification rivals Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland.
Wenger, meanwhile, has backed forgotten man Nicklas Bendtner to seize his second chance at Arsenal and become “unstoppable”.
The Denmark international, 25, seemed certain to leave north London in the summer, following two seasons on loan at Sunderland and then Juventus, only for a series of potential moves to fall through.
Bendtner has not scored a club goal for 17 months, but is Wenger’s only fit senior forward and the Frenchman believes tonight’s Capital One Cup trip to West Brom can resuscitate his Arsenal career.
“I personally believe in his qualities. It’s just down to attitude and fighting spirit. When he has that, Nicklas can be an unstoppable striker,” said Wenger, set to make a raft of changes. “Fans forgive everything as long as you produce the performances on the pitch. That’s what people want.”
WHAT HE MAY MISS
Arsenal and England fixtures
■ Today: West Brom (A), League Cup
■ Saturday: Swansea (A), Prem Lge
■ Tuesday: Napoli (H), Champs Lge
■ 6 Oct: West Brom (A), Prem Lge
■ 11 Oct: Montenegro (H), WC Qual
■ 15 Oct: Poland (H), WC Qual