By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Theo Walcott wants assurances from Arsene Wenger about his playing role before agreeing a new Arsenal contract, Football Insider sources understand.
Walcott will hold further talks with the club in the coming week and will ask to be used more frequently in his favourite centre-forward role next season.
The 26-year-old was selected as Arsenal’s spearhead for their final two matches of the season, scoring four goals, but is wary that he was briefly used as a striker before signing his last contract in January 2013 only to then revert back exclusively to a winger role.
The forward was non-committal about his future when questioned during the Gunners’ FA Cup victory parade on Sunday just hours after his central role in the club’s 4-0 triumph over Aston Villa.
“I am sure things will get resolved. I just want to enjoy today,” he said. “I have got England coming up and then we can think about that process, but it will take time, I am sure.”
Arsenal are keen to clear up the England international’s situation and determine whether Wenger will need to replace him in this summer’s transfer market.
Football Insider understands that when talks opened earlier this year the FA Cup holders gave Theo Walcott three options in a bid to end his contract stalemate and stop negotiations dragging on into next season.
The Gunners told Walcott he can have a four-year deal on a lower salary, take up the 12-month extension option in his current deal or leave this summer.
As revealed by Football Insider, the 26-year-old is seeking a five-year contract worth £130,000-a-week that would catapult him into the top tier of earners at Emirates Stadium alongside Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
However, Arsenal are unwilling to sanction that kind of deal for a player who has been on the fringes of the team since returning from injury last November.
Football Insider understands that the package Arsenal have offered Walcott is spread over four years and worth £90,000-a-week. This is a drop on Walcott’s current £100,000-a-week salary and a pay cut is unlikely to be accepted by the forward.
As an alternative, Walcott could trigger the option clause in his contract and stay at Emirates Stadium for a further year beyond his current agreement, which expires in 2016.
Despite the player’s two impressive end-of-season displays, interest from Chelsea and Liverpool will be seriously considered if Walcott does not accept the deal on the table.
Speaking in the aftermath of the FA Cup triumph, Wenger said he expects the 26-year-old to extend his spell with the club he joined in January 2006 beyond nine-and-a-half years.
“I don’t see why he should not be here next season. He is a player who was out for a year – January to January – and it took him a while to come back to his best.
“I think he is now at an age where it is very interesting. He now has experience, he’s at the peak physically and it’s time to stay with us.”
Walcott had the upper hand when he signed a new deal in January 2013, but Arsenal are likely to feel they now hold the cards due to the player’s struggles to get into the team. The player missed almost the whole of 2014 through injury and made just seven starts in the 2014-15 season.