at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Theo Walcott is determined to see out the season with Arsenal, whatever transpires from his last-ditch contract talks that will take place next month.
Walcott, who is Arsenal’s top scorer this season with 11 goals, is out of contract in the summer and Arsenal are refusing to increase their £75,000-a-week offer.
But Walcott will not sign a pre-contract with a foreign club in January, as he is entitled to with just six months left on his contract, and does not want to move to another Premier League club in the January transfer window.
If agreement cannot be reached in the next month, Walcott will simply take his pick of suitors from Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in the summer.
But the 23-year-old Arsenal striker still wants to stay at Arsenal if agreement can be reached. His principal concerns throughout have been whether Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger would start him regularly and whether there would be a chance to develop as a centre-forward.
Significantly, Wenger has started with Walcott when not injured in the past eight weeks and played him up front as a central striker against Reading and Wigan, which gives some hope that there can still be a reconciliation between the club and the player.
Arsenal will also step up their bid for another striker to support Olivier Giroud. David Villa, unsettled at Barcelona, is under serious consideration but Arsene Wenger has yet to be convinced of the value of bidding for and offering a three-year deal to a 31-year-old player.
But Barcelona are understood to be ready to accept £12 million for Villa in January or £8m in the summer, which makes him a possibility.
Marouane Fellaini’s £25m buy-out clause at Everton is likely to deter Arsenal for now, although they believe the Belgium-born Moroccan could perform a central striking role for them as well as operate as a midfielder. – Mail On Sunday