Theo Walcott remains cautious in bid for full recovery
Arsenal forward Theo Walcott will not set himself any ambitious goals as he plots a steady return to full match sharpness.
The England international made his first start in a year in the FA Cup third round tie against Hull, and produced a few positive runs behind the defence despite lacking a finish in the penalty area.
With his rehabilitation now almost complete - from first the serious knee injury which shattered his World Cup dreams last summer and then a groin problem sustained on international duty with England in November - the 25-year-old feels achieving small targets can help make the biggest difference.
"I like to work week by week, so I forget about the big picture and the nine months (out). Week by week, hitting the goals and when you have achieved that, you can feel good about hitting something else," Walcott said.
"You need to just come into training with a smile on your face, enjoy it and that's all you can do. I remember when I had one of my injuries before, I came in down in the dumps and rehab seemed to take so much longer.
"You don't want that, you want to come in and feel like you're doing something each day."
With both Danny Welbeck, who has been out with a thigh injury, and Olivier Giroud, serving a three-match suspension, set to be available for Sunday's encounter against Stoke, Walcott could again find himself back on the bench, which could also include Mesut Ozil for the first time since October after his knee problem.
Another player uncertain of his place in the starting XI is goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who was caught smoking in the showers after Arsenal's 2-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year's Day, when he had been culpable for both goals.
Fit-again David Ospina stood in for the Poland international against Hull, so Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has a choice to make.
Arsenal are expected to look to add to the squad during the January transfer window.
St Etienne captain Loic Perrin is said to be on Wenger's radar, along with Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin and Winston Reid, who is out of contract at West Ham in the summer.
There are reports Arsenal are preparing a shock £60million bid for Real Madrid midfielder Isco.