Arsene Wenger today claimed that securing Theo Walcott’s long-term future at Arsenal is more important than improving his squad during this month’s transfer window.
Wenger is confident that Walcott, who is out of contract at the end of the season and is seeking a new deal worth close to £100,000 a week, will commit himself to the Gunners.
Arsenal had been offering a five-year, £75,000-a-week contract but the stances of both parties have become more flexible recently and Wenger expects the England player to sign.
Arsenal’s attempt to secure a place in the top four of the Premier League means Wenger is examining transfer targets this month, yet according to the Frenchman, no signing could be as significant as retaining Walcott.
“First of all we have to make sure the players who are here stay here, and after we look outside,” said Wenger, whose side travel to Swansea for their FA Cup third-round tie on Sunday.
“Let’s try first to finalise with Theo and after that if we need something else, we will go somewhere else, but our first priority is that. The most important players for us are those who are here. Those available on the transfer market will not help us win games.
“We are talking with Theo and I am encouraged by the talks. Will there be a deal this month? It is very difficult to predict these situations but I have always said our desire is to do it as quickly as possible.
“We are ready to do it and I think it will happen. I can only speak about it from my side and we want him to stay but I don’t believe Theo is only motivated by money.”
Walcott has recently been granted his wish to play as a central forward and the initial results have been encouraging. The 23-year-old has scored four times in his last four matches, netting a hat-trick against Newcastle.
An eventual deal would boost Arsenal, who are sixth in the table and face a difficult last-16 Champions League tie with 2012 finalists Bayern Munich.
Last month, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson all signed new contracts and if Walcott followed, it would leave the Gunners’ future looking more stable.
Wenger accepted that a deal with Walcott would send a vital signal not only to the squad but also to those players he wishes to sign.
“If Theo signs I’m convinced it will have a positive effect on the rest of the team,” said Wenger. “That goes for potential targets, too, although Arsenal have a good reputation anyway outside England.
“Many players want to join us but at the moment all these players are under contract. As for Theo, I believe he is ready to play in any position. Maybe he enjoys it more up front because it is a new experience for him and he always wanted to do it.
“Will that play a part in his decision? I don’t know. Only he can answer that. In our job, you play the players where you think they should play. The most important thing is to have a positive influence on their career. After that, you want that career to be here.”
Wenger revealed that defenders Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou could leave the club this month.
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