Arsène Wenger will not sell Theo Walcott before the transfer deadline even if the winger has not agreed to fresh terms at Arsenal. Walcott's future has been under the spotlight as he has entered the final 12 months of his contract and negotiations have stalled over a new deal.
The club had suggested to Walcott that if he did not agree to their proposal of a long-term contract worth £75,000 a week, as he has not, they would move him on before Friday night's cut-off. Manchester City are most prominent among his admirers while Liverpool have also shown an interest. Chelsea wanted him at the start of the summer but they have since signed a clutch of attacking midfielders.
Walcott's relationship with Arsenal has been close to breaking point, and he was so frustrated on Sunday when he was dropped from the starting line-up away to Stoke City that he came to see the end of his six-and-a-half-year career at the club. He feared that his non-selection represented a political statement from them.
Wenger had a meeting with Walcott on Wednesday, with the chief executive Ivan Gazidis present, at which he attempted to repair the recent damage. The manager told Walcott he wanted the contractual talks to resume and the closure of the summer transfer window would not represent a definitive deadline for them.
Wenger and Gazidis are taking a risk in allowing Walcott to enter September without an agreement in place but they have come to reason that it is a calculated one as they know that the player wants to stay.
Walcott's case is different to those of Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie, who left Arsenal with less than 12 months to run on their contracts. Nasri, who moved to City last August, and Van Persie, who joined Manchester United two weeks ago, wanted to leave the club and forced their departures after making it clear they would not consider extensions to their deals.
Walcott has said in public he wants to stay and reiterated it to Wenger during the meeting on Wednesday . Wenger's knowledge of Walcott's intentions has allowed him to sound bullish when questioned about the 23-year-old's future while he might also have been reassured by his professionalism and commitment. Walcott reported for pre-season training on 19 July and he travelled, two days later, on the club's tour of the Far East, when other Euro 2012 players were stood down.
"We want to extend Theo's contract and to keep him at the club but you need not only our desire; his desire is also right," Wenger said, last Friday. "He wants to stay and we need to find an agreement. We have so many players in midfield and on the flanks but Theo is a very important player for me. I hope he will stay and that's it."
The sticking point has been the money, even if Walcott is not a money-motivated person. To him, it has become a question of self-worth and being paid his market value which, he feels, is £100,000 a week. He might look at the £55,000 a week that Arsenal have paid to the reserve striker Nicklas Bendtner and reason that the offer of £75,000 a week which is on the table is not sufficient.
Walcott can look around and see his England colleague James Milner, for example, being paid £90,000 a week at City. He knows City and Liverpool would give him £100,000 a week; City would pay much more. Walcott is the poster-boy for Arsenal's ventures in the Far East and while the club are happy to profit from his image, it feels a little incongruous that they do not appear to have factored his commercial worth into their wage offer.
One of the surprising things about the situation and the way that it threatened to turn ugly has been the speed at which Arsenal conducted the negotiations. The club's transfer fixer Dick Law only opened the talks at the beginning of the month and he has had discussions on two further occasions, most recently last Friday.
The negotiations are set to continue, after the alarm of the past days, and the longer the new contract remains unsigned, the more the power would appear to rest with Walcott. The on-going issue is likely to dominate Wenger's briefingon Thursday, ahead of Sunday's Premier League match at Liverpool.
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image: © Ronnie Macdonald