By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Arsenal have scheduled a final round of talks with Theo Walcott in a bid to break the contract stalemate with the forward, Goal.com can reveal.
Negotiations will resume between the Londoners and Walcott’s representatives in mid-November, with both parties hopeful that a resolution can be reached to end the long-running impasse.
Goal.com understands that Arsenal regard the forthcoming talks as the final chance of tying the England international to a new agreement.
The club will look to sell the 23-year-old, who is set to return to the starting XI for the Capital One Cup tie at Reading on Tuesday night, in the January window if there is no breakthrough next month.
However, it is believed that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger would rather offload Walcott abroad than to a Premier League rival, even if it means reducing the cost of the transfer fee.
Juventus have registered their interest in the wide forward and are ready to enter the bidding in the new year.
But the Serie A champions face strong competition from Liverpool, who regard Walcott as a possible answer to their dearth of attacking options, while Manchester City also are continuing to monitor developments.
Walcott has been locked in contract negotiations with Arsenal since the back end of last season and had been hoping for a significant upgrade on his current £60,000-a-week deal, which has just eight months to run.
Goal.com revealed back in April that the 23-year-old had been holding out for a £100,000-a-week salary that would now make him the club’s highest earner.
But Arsenal have made it clear they will not be held to ransom by the player and are unwilling to increase their package for Walcott much beyond their current £75,000-a-week offer.
There is also a dispute between Walcott and Wenger over how the player fits into the Arsenal team.
The Frenchman has used the former Southampton man almost exclusively on the right of a front three in his six-and-a-half years at the club but Walcott believes he has plenty to offer in a centre-forward role.
“It is a case of having trust in me up front,” said Walcott last month. “I was signed as a striker and it is about time, I want to play up front. I have learnt my game on the wing. When you look at what I did last year I think I can do even more. Hopefully I will be given the opportunity. I am desperate for it.”
Walcott has started only two of his 10 Arsenal games this season, and only one match – the Capital One Cup thrashing of Coventry City last month – since his contract stand-off with the club at the end of August.
This comes after he established himself as an undisputed first-team regular last season, starting 29 of Arsenal’s 32 first Premier League matches and ending the campaign as the club’s second leading scorer behind Robin van Persie, weighing in with 11 in all competitions.
Walcott is poised to make his first Arsenal start for five weeks against Reading on Tuesday in a team made up predominantly of emerging players.
The front man suffered a chest injury on England duty against San Marino earlier this month and only returned to the first-team squad against QPR last weekend.