Arsene Wenger wants Theo Walcott to sign Arsenal contract

By Phil McNultyBBC Sport chief football writer at the Madejski Stadium
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes Theo Walcott will sign a new contract with the Gunners.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes Theo Walcott will sign a new contract with the Gunners.

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal still hope to resolve their contract wrangle with Theo Walcott and persuade the England attacker to sign a new deal.

Walcott scored in Arsenal's 5-2 win at Reading and gave a fine display in his preferred position of central striker.

His contract expires next summer and Chelsea, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs have been linked with moves.

"It is not my decision - it is Theo's decision as well. If it is my decision it is quickly done," said Wenger.

"I believe he has been educated at Southampton and Arsenal and he has become a top player. I hope that when he considers his future he will consider Arsenal is the best place for him and sign for us."

Walcott signed from Southampton as a 16-year-old in 2006 for an initial £5m rising to £12.5m and has scored 52 goals in 237 appearances for the Gunners.

Arsenal are understood to be willing to pay him around £75,000 per week but the player has yet to agree terms.

The 23-year-old also wants a regular run as Wenger's main striker, where he played to such good effect at the Madejski Stadium.

Walcott said: "Talks are ongoing and it's going to be a slow process. It's taking a long time but hopefully something will happen soon."

Wenger is keen to keep Walcott after watching Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri leave Emirates Stadium during the final year of their contracts in recent seasons.

The Frenchman is also hoping Walcott's fellow England internationals Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson will agree new long-term deals.

Wenger said: "I do not want to come out on details of Walcott's contract but simply say our desire and will is clear and he knows that. Hopefully we can get to a happy ending.

"I believe we have a good core of young English players. We couldn't keep the good core of young foreign players. We hope we will be capable of building a team around the young English players and achieve something together."

Monday's win at Reading may have eased some of the growing pressure on Wenger, who suffered heavy criticism from supporters following Arsenal's shock Capital One Cup quarter-final defeat at League Two Bradford City.

He said: "Our game is based on movement and technical quality and that demands freedom of initiative. When you are in a crisis that sometimes suffers but we have to go beyond that."

Asked whether he thought Arsenal's season had descended into crisis after the loss to Bradford, he added: "It depends what you call a crisis. If you are being slaughtered by everybody you are in a super crisis.

"In the championship our run is not so bad recently. We lost just one of the last six, but because we had not won them and were starting in the middle [of the table], no win becomes highlighted. This run is not fantastic, but not disastrous.

"It was difficult but it was also interesting because you look around and you can see who is mentally strong. It is a test when you have been in a position like we were in.

"There was a unity and I'm pleased everyone in the club remained on board and focused. That's what it is all about."