Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Theo Could Be off If Arsene Doesn't Let Him Play Up Front

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Theo Could Be off If Arsene Doesn't Let Him Play Up Front

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

[bar] HEO WALCOTT'S contract talks at Arsenal have stalled in part because he has sought assurances from manager Arsene Wenger that he will play more regularly as a striker.

Although the 23-year-old's representatives are thought to be holding out for a financial package higher than the five-year contract worth [pounds sterling]75,000 a week currently on the table, money is not the sole stumbling block.

Walcott believes he is ready to make the same transition his idol Thierry Henry made at the club and move from playing as a winger to centre-forward, particularly in the wake of Robin van Persie's departure.

Interestingly, England manager Roy Hodgson listed Walcott as a striker in his squad for their friendly against Italy in Switzerland earlier this month before he was forced to pull out with an injury.

In several training sessions last season in which Wenger focused on team shape, Walcott was used as a centreforward on occasions when Van Persie was unable to take part.

But he is yet to get his wish at club level and in March, Walcott gave an exclusive interview to the Standard in which he admitted he was frustrated but would not raise the issue with Wenger during the season.

"People forget I am a striker and I'm learning the right wing trade more and more," he told Standard Sport. "I want to play up front but I am not the sort of player to play up there on my own. I need a big man with me. That's not the way we play at Arsenal so we'll see.

"I am not the sort of player who likes to tell the manager I want to play up front and argue why it isn't happening. You can't change the system now but hopefully it'll happen next year."

Van Persie's role in the team has been taken by Olivier Giroud and although Walcott is not pushing to assume the role straightaway, he wants more game time there given the criticism he often attracts as a wide player. …

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