Arsenal want Theo Walcott talks "resolved by Christmas"

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has set a Christmas deadline for the club to agree a new deal with England international Theo Walcott. The 23-year-old forward's current deal ends next summer and if a new deal isn't signed by the end of 2012 he would be free to talk to other clubs from January.

Wenger said: "There is urgency. We want to sort it out before Christmas, one way or the other." Asked if Arsenal would have to sell Walcott if no agreement was reached by the end of 2012, Wenger said: "I would not like to." But the manager will probably be forced to sell if a new deal isn't signed by Christmas.

Walcott rejected a five-year, £75,000-a-week offer in August, saying he wanted to play another tactical role in the team, switching from the wing to centre-forward.Walcott made his debut for Arsenal back in 2006, at the age of 17, and then established himself as one of the key members of the squad.

But now he is mostly coming in off the bench and it was reported that Walcott was reluctant to discuss a new contract unless he regains a regular starting spot. The England forward has started only three games this season and further talks have yet to be scheduled.

Theo Walcott scored a fabulous hat-trick in Arsenal's amazing 7-5 win over Reading on Tuesday, and he played as a striker in that game. Moreover, he is the club's top scorer with seven goals this season. Wenger said that Walcott would eventually be deployed in his preferred attacking role, but urged his player to have patience. "I always said it is important that he plays in the right position and that certainly would be through the middle in the future, he showed that again on Tuesday night," Wenger said. "The positions on the flanks are changing, you need to do a lot of defending. He should be dedicated more to offensive work."

Walcott, who already has 28 England caps, signed from Southampton, at the age of 16 for a fee of £12.5m in 2006.

Arsenal's next Premier League match is on Saturday at Old Trafford and Bet365 have Theo Walcott priced at 12/5 to score in the match against Manchester United and 9/1 to score the first goal of the match.

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