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Wenger sends warning to Walcott

CONTRACT ISSUES: Walcott

ARSENE WENGER has expressed his irritation at Theo Walcott’s contract stand-off, warning the winger must commit his future to Arsenal as soon as possible.

The Arsenal manager has left Walcott out of his starting line-up since he turned down a new £75,000-a-week deal at the Emirates and admitted the issue could become more pertinent if it is allowed to fester.

There had been suggestions the England forward - who could potentially sign a lucrative pre-contract agreement with another club in January - would be sold in the last transfer window to avoid him moving as a free agent next summer, which Wenger refuted.

Walcott received a mixed reception when he was introduced as a substitute before scoring in Arsenal’s 6-1 win against Southampton on Saturday (September 15) and Wenger conceded the fans’ reaction could also be problematic.

“Is the fans’ reaction a worry? It is. I think you want your players to be supported no matter what kind of contractual situation they are in,” said the Gunners boss.

The 23-year-old is in the Arsenal squad to face Montpellier in their first Champions League Group B game this evening, but Wenger was non-committal on whether Walcott has done enough to earn a starting place.

Asked whether the uncertainty about the winger’s future has affected his selection decisions, the Arsenal manager said: "It can, but at the moment I still hope to extend his contract so, at the moment, it doesn’t affect me. Of course at some stage (it will). If in April it’s not done (a new contract), you can think now it will be difficult to do.”

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