Arsene Wenger has set a deadline for contract talks with Theo Walcott as the Arsenal winger enters the final year of his contract.
The England international has struggled to force his way back into the first team since recovering from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament that kept him on the sidelines for a year, barring a brief return in November.
Having been afforded just fleeting appearances from the substitutes’ bench in recent weeks, reports have linked the 26-year-old with a move to Liverpool to replace Raheem Sterling, should he leave the club this summer.
Having not played 90 minutes all season, there are doubts over Walcott’s suitability to the current Arsenal squad, although Wenger has stressed that he still has a bright future at the club and admitted contract talks remain on-going having started earlier in the season.
But with the 65-year-old Frenchman beginning to show some signs of frustration with the lack of progress in talks, he revealed that a deadline has been set for Walcott to agree a new deal – but stopped short of naming the time and date of the cut-off.
“There might be a date,” Wenger said on Friday ahead of Sunday’s final Premier League game of the season against West Brom. “(But) I do not see the need to inform you about the hour and the day when we will be meeting his representative.”
Walcott hit the headlines following his move to Arsenal as he was included in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England squad for the 2006 World Cup, although he failed to see a minute of action in Germany. He was then omitted from Fabio Capello’s squad for the 2010 tournament in South Africa and missed last year’s World Cup in Brazil due to the serious knee injury, but Wenger praised his character from bouncing back from the disappointments and labelled him a “special player”.
“He has a special destiny because it’s unusual that a boy of 17 goes to the World Cup,” Wenger added. “When England went to Brazil (in 2014), he was not selected (because of injury) and he was not selected by Fabio Capello for South Africa 2010.
“It’s special because when a boy goes at 17 years of age to a World Cup - you think he will make four of five [tournaments]. He’s a special player who has overcome special tests on the mental front. He will have a special destiny as a player because nothing happens as planned with him, but he always responds in a very strong way.”
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