Why is Theo Walcott not starting regularly for Arsenal?

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Arsenal forward Theo Walcott should have genuine concerns over his omission from the starting XI for Sunday's Premier League showdown with Everton, because for the first time it felt like a gradual return from a career-threatening knee injury wasn't the reason he was left out of the side.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has been ultra cautious with Walcott and that policy is definitely justified, but a total of just two starts in Arsenal's last 11 Premier League games since being deemed fit for selection tells its own story.

Walcott must have found being left out in favour of Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for matches against Monaco and Everton last week particularly difficult to take, but where does this leave a player who is out of contract next summer?

Welbeck moves up in pecking order

Wenger was presented with a straight choice between Walcott and Welbeck for the Monaco match and went with the latter, primarily because of his tremendous work-rate and ability to provide protection for fledging full-back Hector Bellerin.

Welbeck failed to deliver the goods against Monaco and was not alone, but despite coming on and making something of an impact through the middle Walcott was sat back on the bench by the time Sunday rolled round.

Wenger has questions to answer

Walcott has been used sparingly in 2015 to put it mildly, which is surprising when you consider he's scored in both of his Premier League starts since the turn of the year.

A calm, composed finish on the volley against Leicester City last month served as a reminder that Walcott is vastly in that department from the teenager that turned up in North London nearly a decade ago, which means he should be a genuine alternative option through the middle surely?

The 25-year-old desperately needs to start playing again regularly and quick, because he's far too talented to be spending peak years of his career as a spectator.

Seeing Welbeck now primarily used as a wide forward rather than a central striker has to be a major worry for Walcott, after all that's been the position Wenger has been determined to keep him in.

Alexis Sanchez is virtually unstoppable on the opposite flank, while Olivier Giroud always looks a safe bet to start in attack simply because he offers a physical focal point no other striker in Wenger's squad can match.

Throw-in Wenger's penchant for often using Mesut Ozil out wide and that suddenly makes Walcott's path back into the first team look treacherous to say the very least. 

Contract situation adds a layer of intrigue

Arsenal have shown a strong commitment to Walcott in the past and broke their wage structure to accommodate one of the Premier League's quickest players back in 2013, the last time Walcott's long-term future was open to debate.

Walcott put pen to paper on a £100,00-a-week deal on that occasion, but negotiations promise to be very different this time. Back then Walcott held all the cards, pushing for a salary to reflect his new-found status after scoring goal consistently, while also insisting he was ready to play as a central striker and proving as much on the pitch.

It remains to be seen if Arsenal are willing to be quite as flexible this time round, with Walcott clearly still struggling to persuade Wenger he's ready to reclaim that pivotal position in his plans.

Wenger almost certainly still has a place for Walcott at the Emirates, but it remains puzzling as to why he's not addressed the issue head-on over the last six weeks.

Walcott must be thinking the same thing, because even if he's still very happy with life in North London there's only so much bench-warming he can prepared to put up with.

What makes matters worse is he still hasn't been considered after huge setbacks in recent weeks, with Monaco and Tottenham Hotspur the principle defeats that should have had alarm bells ringing.

Tomorrow night's trip to Queens Park Rangers is followed by a gargantuan FA Cup quarter-final clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford next Monday. If Walcott fails to start either match then surely there's something more sinister going on, even if Wenger tries to insist otherwise.

Arsenal fans, what do you think is going on with Walcott? Is it simply a case of still fighting for full fitness or is Arsene Wenger leaving him out for another reason? Let us know your opinion by leaving a comment in the box below!

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