Arsene Wenger says he is hopeful of resolving Theo Walcott’s contract dispute by Christmas – and has hinted he may be willing to hand him the striker’s spot he so desperately craves.

Walcott’s current deal at the Emirates Stadium expires at the end of the season, and the 23-year-old has been linked with a move to both Liverpool and Juventus.

The England international has been unable to nail down a first team spot on a regular basis so far this season, and has expressed a desire to be deployed in a more central role rather than out wide before he commits his future to the Gunners.

Walcott staked a claim to a strikers role with a hat-trick against Reading in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday as Arsenal secured a stunning 7-5 win, and with Gervinho recently ruled out for three weeks with an ankle injury he may well get his chance to shine up front.

Wenger, who has previously expressed his desire that Walcott signs a new deal at the Emirates Stadium, says he was hoping to get the stand-off resolved before Christmas and says his long-term future at the club is as a striker.

“There is urgency. I want it resolved by Christmas,” the Frenchman said. “His right position is through the middle in the future. he loves to score goals, he has good pace and makes intelligent runs. He's a good finisher."

Reports yesterday suggested that Walcott is reluctant to discuss a new deal with the Gunners until he is assured of a regular starting spot.

Walcott turned down a £75,000-per-week deal in August, and although he is free to leave Arsenal when his current contract ends in May he has previously voiced his hope that the stand-off can be resolved.

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