Theo Walcott wants to leave Arsenal this month as he seeks regular playing time away from the Gunners in a bid to be in contention for Gareth Southgate’s England squad at World Cup 2018, with both Southampton and Everton interested.
The 28-year-old has seen his game time limited to 15 appearances this season, nine of which have come in the cup competitions, including Sunday’s disastrous FA Cup third round exit at the hands of Championship side Nottingham Forest.
Arsenal’s longest-serving player is one of the highest paid stars at the club and with a contract set to expire next summer, and Gunners boss Wenger is keen on keeping Walcott even if it means he can’t guarantee him a regular spot in the starting XI.
“I want him to stay,” said Wenger in his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“I heard about Southampton’s interest but I want him to stay.”
However, Walcott, who scored 19 goals last season despite not playing the last 10 games of the campaign due to Arsene Wenger’s change in formation, believes he’s good enough to play for another top six club in the Premier League and it’s understood a loan move is favoured by the former Southampton man.
Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino has already admitted his interest in Walcott, who is also wanted by several Premier League clubs and a team in Serie A, believed to be AC Milan.
“I have been talking about him,” said Pellegrino.
“He is a good player, but I don’t know with the negotiations, with the market, I imagine that this type of player would have a lot of possibility. For us it’s not easy.
“Hopefully we can bring somebody that can help us be stronger. This is our target now. We know the market is difficult, but we are working on that.”Walcott’s future whereabouts is likely to be determined by how Arsenal’s current injury crisis and, with Olivier Giroud sidelined with a hamstring injury, a move remains likelier in the latter stages of the January transfer window.