Theo Walcott is ready to open talks with Arsenal over a contract extension, despite his struggles at the Emirates Stadium since returning from his lengthy injury lay-off in January.
This is according to the Telegraph, who understand the Gunners are subsequently preparing to begin formal talks with the English winger and his representatives over a new contract following weeks of speculation suggesting he could leave the north London outfit as early as this summer.
The talks are set to be held in the two weeks between this Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Reading and the Premier League fixture against Hull City on May 4.
Wenger to end Sterling interest
Walcott has been strongly linked with a move to Liverpool, the club he grew up supporting, but that potential summer deal is now unlikely to happen because Arsenal have serious doubts over Raheem Sterling’s character.
Arsene Wenger is understood to have reservations about the 20-year-old, whose future at Anfield is in doubt, following several controversial incidents over the past few weeks.
This may have made the veteran French coach more determined to keep Walcott, 26, at the Emirates Stadium despite the player’s previous reluctance to open talks over a new deal until the summer.
While the fact Liverpool are unlikely to qualify for next season’s Champions League campaign may have had a bearing on Walcott’s decision to finally open talks over a new Arsenal deal before the end of the current term.
Walcott wants first-team assurances rather than more cash
But the Mirror claim that Walcott wants assurances from Wenger before agreeing to put pen-to-paper on any contract extension.
The lightning-quick winger has often found himself on the subs’ bench in recent weeks, as a result of the intense competition for first-team places at the Emirates Stadium, and wants to know that he still has a big role to play at Arsenal before committing his future to the club.
Walcott is not chasing an improved contract in terms of wages - he already earns £90,000-a-week - but the Gunners may offer a slight increase in salary to encourage him to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
Walcott may struggle to break back into line-up
Walcott is a player with several fantastic attributes - not least his searing pace - but Wenger has struggled to find a place for the winger in his first team of late and this could be a major problem moving forwards.
Which attacking player does he drop for Walcott? That’s the big question Wenger must ask himself - and if he cannot offer the England international any guarantees then there’s every chance the contract offer will remain unsigned heading into the 2015-16 campaign.
Should Arsenal play Theo Walcott every week? If so, which attacking player should Arsene Wenger drop? Have your say in the comments below!