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The Gunners boss plans to keep hold of the England international beyond the January transfer window, even if he fails to agree an extension on his existing contract

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is prepared to keep Theo Walcott at the club after the winter transfer window closes and risk losing him on a free transfer in the summer.

Walcott’s future has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, with his current deal due to expire next summer, and speculation has seen him linked to a move away from the Emirates - with Liverpool and Manchester City rumoured to be ready to pounce.

However, Wenger has revealed he plans to keep hold of the winger in a bid to boost Arsenal’s chances of silverware, even if he has failed to agree a contract extension by the time the transfer window opens in January.

Speaking to reporters, he said: “I don't know if you call that high-risk but it is just my opinion. What is important is what we achieve together for the season. To do that I just think that Theo is a big part in that.

“There's a risk [of losing him for free], yes, but we are ready to take it. A successful season is more important for us, than this risk that is only a financial risk, apart from the losing the player.

“If we sell him we lose him anyway. I believe that we started the season with this squad and we want to finish the season with this squad.”

Goal.com exclusively revealed on Tuesday that the England international is moving closer to committing his future to the Gunners - with a salary rise and promise of opportunities to play upfront key to his decision.

The 23-year-old has been in blistering form so far this season - netting nine times in 15 appearances so far for the north London club.

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