Arsene Wenger says he never wanted to sell rejuvenated Theo Walcott
Arsene Wenger says Theo Walcott is like a different player this season following the forwards's upturn in form.
The England international started just 15 league games and scored five goals last season, but has already matched that goal tally this term following his brace in Saturday's win over Swansea.
The 27-year-old's excellent form could earn him a rest for Wednesday's Champions League visit of Ludogorets, with Walcott's performances on the right wing a key factor in the Gunners' unbeaten run stretching back to their 4-3 defeat to Liverpool in their first game of the season.
Arsenal have won their last six games in all competitions but it could have been very different for player and club had Walcott been allowed to depart, with West Ham among the clubs who were heavily linked with a move for the former Southampton man in the summer.
However Wenger insists he did not think about selling Walcott, saying: "Look, I haven't spoken to anybody because I was not ready to let him go. I always wanted to keep him.
"What I've seen of him is that he lets the passion for the game come out of his body. That's what you want from him.
"I've felt that since he's played with more freedom, maybe he lets his feelings come out a bit more and is less calculating: 'Can I do that or can I not do that?'
"He plays with more freedom and more desire. I think he has a less restricted attitude and that shows you that he is a completely different player."
Francis Coquelin has handed Wenger a fitness boost as the Arsenal manager looks to continue his side's excellent form against Ludogorets and maintain their place at the top of Group A.
Two wins in the double-header against Bulgarian champions Ludogorets will all but secure a safe passage into the knockout stages and Coquelin could feature having made his comeback from the knee injury suffered against Chelsea last month as a substitute against Swansea at the weekend, despite initial concerns he would be out for three months.
"I feel 100 per cent fit. It took me a few weeks to get back to full fitness, but now I feel good," said Coquelin.
Coquelin's place in Arsenal's side has arguably never been under more pressure following the recent additions of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny.
But the Frenchman will be ready whenever he is called upon.
"Let's not forget we are Arsenal Football Club," he added.
"There's always going to be great quality in this squad. You have to be ready for a fight. It's good for me to improve my game and give even more in training and every game. It can only improve the whole squad."