• Walcott scores eighth goal of season in draw at Schalke
• Wenger offers praise for winger who had last-gasp chance
Theo Walcott has told Arsène Wenger that he "fully deserves" a run in Arsenal's starting line-up but he claimed not to know whether his contractual dispute would impact on his chances.
The England international was called into the team on the right wing at Schalke, as injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey forced Wenger's hand. Walcott had not previously started in the Premier or Champions Leagues since the negotiations to extend his contract, which has entered its final season, stalled in late August.
Walcott responded with his eighth goal of the season, in all competitions, but he also spurned a glorious last-minute opportunity to snatch victory. Wenger admitted that, together with the concession of the goal in first-half injury-time to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the Walcott miss was his greatest regret of the tie, which finished 2-2.
"I just want to play," Walcott said, "and hopefully now I can get a run in the team because I feel I fully deserve it. It was a good point but it would have been a fantastic victory. I did all I could with the late chance. The ball got stuck to my feet and I just couldn't get it out."
Wenger has maintained that Walcott's refusal to agree to the fresh terms on offer, which are worth £80,000 a week, has not influenced his non-selection of the player. Walcott, somewhat pointedly, turned the focus on to Wenger when he was asked about the notion. "You have to ask the manager that question," Walcott said. "I can't answer that."
Wenger offered praise to Walcott for his performance. "He did very well," the Frenchman said. "His attitude was positive and he was fresh as well. You always felt he could make a difference and it was no coincidence that he had the chance in the final minute."
The manager talked up his players' character and the manner in which they had recovered from Saturday's morale-sapping defeat at Manchester United. He noted that if they beat Montpellier at home in their next tie, they would have a "50% chance" of reaching the last 16 with one game to spare, with Schalke facing Olympiakos here in Gelsenkirchen.
"It was important not to lose tonight and, if possible, to win," Wenger said. "Overall, we played reasonably well, although we dropped physically in the second-half. The regret we have is we conceded the goal before half-time and we missed the chance at the end. The two have a big impact on the game. I believe we showed a good response to Saturday. You feel the team is getting better. I think in one month, if we continue to develop, we will be there."
Wenger complained about a "100%" foul on Walcott by Ibrahim Afellay in the buildup to Huntelaar's goal and, also, for the way that play was stopped for an injury to Marco Höger in the second half just as Lukas Podolski threatened. Podolski was then booked for kicking the ball away.
"That was another decision that was amazing," Wenger said. "It was the first time I saw in my long experience the game being stopped when a player has rolled his ankle. I never see that when you have a goal chance."