The Englishman’s contract expires at the end of next season but the Frenchman has no intention of selling the forward, and says he will be deployed as a striker
Arsene Wenger says he is keen to guide Theo Walcott through a “golden age”, as speculation persists that the forward could leave Arsenal this summer.
Walcott has been limited to just 21 appearances since the start of last season due to a string of injury problems and, with the England international’s contract expiring at the end of next season, reports suggest that he may be forced to leave the Emirates Stadium if he cannot reclaim his place in Wenger’s starting XI.
However, the Arsenal manager has again rebuffed any suggestion that he could sell the England international, insisting that he is determined to help Walcott reach the peak of his powers, and says that he intends to deploy the 26-year-old as a centre-forward.
“I bought him at Southampton when he was 17 because I believe in his qualities as a good finisher and the timing of his runs are very intelligent,” Wenger told reporters.
“He’s at the best age now. Being 26 to 32 as a striker is the best age as a striker and I wouldn’t like to miss that golden age.
“I think his position will be striker. I work with him in both situations, as a striker and as a wide player. But the quality of the runs is so fantastic with the pace he has. When he was younger he was rushing his finishing but he is a good finisher now.
“He can be transformed. He is naturally gifted to play in this position but he has different qualities.
“Olivier Giroud has a physical presence, back to goal, can head the ball. Theo is more a guy who is a runner, who goes behind.”
Wenger also believes that Walcott will choose to remain at Arsenal, because he has grown to “love the club”.
“I think he wants to stay. Of the whole squad he is the player who has played the most games for us,” he added.
“Nobody has played more for us than Theo. He has played 202 [Premier League] games and that means he is part of us.”