England forward Theo Walcott played 45 minutes for Arsenal’s Under-21 side against Blackburn as he stepped up his recovery from the knee injury which kept him out of the World Cup.
The 25-year-old has been sidelined for nine months after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the closing stages of the Gunners’ FA Cup third-round victory over Tottenham.
“It has been a hard, long nine months,” Walcott said after featuring for the first half of last night’s goalless draw at Meadow Park.
“I always need to go out there and play to the best of my ability. I don’t think about picking up little knocks – I think about the game.
“That’s what I did, and I got through fine.”
Walcott ruled out playing for the Gunners this weekend against Hull City and was adamant he would not rush a return to first-team action.
“It was a massive blow when it happened, but I am focused on the present now and I will take it day by day,” he said.
“I need to be patient with myself. It is important to recover. I need to be patient. The manager will choose to play me when he wants – it (the injury) needs to be managed as well.”
Abou Diaby also played 67 minutes and Serge Gnabry an hour for the Gunners.
But Mesut Ozil is not expected to play again for at least two months after suffering a knee injury at Chelsea, while defender Laurent Koscielny returned early from the French camp after an Achilles problem flared up again.
With Calum Chambers serving a one-match suspension today, Spain international Nacho Monreal is likely to be drafted across to centre-back alongside Per Mertesacker.