at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Arsene Wenger has backed Theo Walcott to go from strength to strength after confirming that the striker is close to signing a new contract.
The Arsenal manager yesterday confirmed Sportsmail’s exclusive storyon Wednesday that Walcott was on the verge of signing a new deal.
When asked if he thought the England international would sign before the end of the month, Wenger replied: ‘Yes.We are on a good road but at the moment nothing is signed, so I am cautious. But I am optimistic we will get to a happy conclusion. I was optimistic last week, but I am a bit more optimistic this week.’
Securing Walcott’s signature will end speculation over the forward’s long-term future, with both Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Chelsea monitoring his situation.
Having rejected a five-year deal worth £75,000 a week, the club’s improved offer — in the region of £90,000 a week — has been enough to resolve the issue that has rumbled on for six months.
And Wenger has paid tribute to Walcott’s professionalism during the period of uncertainty.
‘I don’t think it has affected him,’ said Wenger. ‘One credit I give him is that I could never see a difference in training or in games during that period that was quite difficult for him.
‘But I thought always he would react well. I expected him to behave properly.’
And Wenger fully expects the 23-year-old to cause even more havoc among Premier League defences now the contractual issues are resolved.
‘The quality of his runs off the ball and the quality of his finishing is where he has progressed the most,’ said the Arsenal manager whose team play Manchester City at the Emirates tomorrow.
‘If you compare Theo today with three years ago, he is a different animal. Today he finishes in a calm way and very accurately. And he can improve. He’s 23 years old, that’s usually when players start their career. For a striker, he’s coming into the best age now.’
However, the future of first-choice right back Bacary Sagna is far less certain. The club have offered Sagna a one-year extension to his current deal that expires in 2014 but without a pay rise on his £60,000-a-week wages.
And the defender feels the Gunners are not showing him the same loyalty he has given them in recent seasons and perceives the offer as ‘disrespectful’.
Sagna is known to have turned down overtures from Real Madrid and Manchester City in recent summers.
Sportsmail understands Sagna’s representatives are exploring possibilities in Russia and China, while Inter Milan remain interested.
Wenger is lining up Marseille’s versatile defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa as Sagna’s replacement. – Daily Mail