By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Theo Walcott will hold imminent talks with Arsene Wenger before deciding whether to commit himself to Arsenal beyond his current contract, Goal.com has learned.
The England winger’s current deal runs until June 2013 and his representatives have had two informal meetings with the club to discuss the structure of a new agreement.
Goal.com understands that Walcott will personally sit down and talk to his manager within weeks to get an idea of where he fits into Wenger’s plans.
Arsenal sources insist discussions are ongoing and there is no strict timetable to come to an agreement with Walcott but the club’s bargaining position is weakened the longer the player’s long-term future remains unresolved.
Arsenal will want to avoid a repeat of the situation they experienced last summer, when Samir Nasri entered the final 12 months of his existing contract before leaving for Manchester City.
Senior club officials, including Wenger and contract negotiator Richard Law, are likely to demonstrate a greater urgency in offering Walcott new terms when the transfer window closes.
With the club’s Champions League status under greater threat than at any time in Walcott’s six years in north London, both parties are aware that there are variables in what Arsenal can offer and his prospects of career advancement.
And while it is thought Walcott would prefer to remain in the south-east of England, where he is very settled, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the 22-year-old could follow Joe Cole to the Continent, where he will not be subjected to the same level of physical attention from defenders.
Coincidentally, some of Walcott’s signature performances have come against European opposition and Juventus head a queue of admirers from Italy and Spain.
Walcott has had a chequered career at Emirates Stadium, partly due to a succession of injuries, but he has shown glimpses of the player that persuaded Wenger to rank him as one of the most exciting teenagers he had ever seen when he bought him from Southampton in January 2006.
Walcott is not the only key Arsenal first-teamer who is out of contract next year. Robin van Persie has 18 months left on his deal and has told the club that he will wait until the end of the season before holding any talks.