Arsène Wenger admits there is a growing urgency to Theo Walcott's contract negotiations ahead of next Friday's 11pm transfer deadline.
Representatives of club and player are engaged in talks to try to reach an agreement that would let the England winger, 23, extend his stay at the club before he enters the final season of his current deal.
A failure to strike a deal could result in Walcott – who is believed to be seeking a salary of around £100,000 per week – playing out the current campaign before leaving as a free agent at the end of the season. Alternatively, Arsenal could move to realise the remaining value in the player but, having seen Alex Song and, more painfully, Robin van Persie leave already this season, Wenger is keen to avoid another of his leading players exiting.
"Negotiations continue, at the moment not directly with me, and we will try to sort it out one way or the other," Wenger said. "We want to extend his contract, and to keep him at the club – but you need not only our desire. His desire is also right, he wants to stay and we need to find an agreement."
Walcott has attracted interest, particularly from Liverpool, but Wenger is keen for the player to extend his six-year stay at the Emirates Stadium. "I hope he will stay and that's it," added the Frenchman. "There is big competition going on everywhere. We have so many in midfield and on the flanks but Theo is very important for me."
Wenger is not expecting a frantic final week of the transfer window to rival last August when he was forced to act quickly to plug gaps left by the departure of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. The manager has an interest in Jesus Navas, the Seville winger, that could develop if the Walcott talks reach an impasse, but a move for Nuri Sahin, the Real Madrid midfielder now expected to join Liverpool, "is not alive" according to the manager, whose priority is a defensive midfielder.
"If someone top, top-class turns up, completely defensive, we will consider it," he said.
Wenger says he ended his interest in Sahin because he feels the Turkey international is too similar to Jack Wilshere, the England midfielder, who the manager now hopes could be close to a return around October.
"October will be an important month for him," Wenger said. "His form will decide. But he works very hard. Every day he's in early, late going home and he's focused and has built up a good basis for his body. After how quick he will be sharp again for competition, I don't know. We will have to wait for at least for a month to see."
Wenger did concede the one signing he would have liked to have made was Van Persie, who rejected the offer of a new deal. He also admits to a certain frustration at seeing Eden Hazard settle in so quickly at Chelsea, having tried to sign the Belgium international two years ago.
"There was such competition for him from Manchester City, Chelsea, and they fly a bit higher in the sky," he said. "Two years ago, we were in touch with Lille but they never wanted to sell him. He is a guy who has something special, as you have seen already."Reuse content