Arsenal winger Theo Walcott has opened talks with the club regarding a new contract.
Walcott penned a new three-and-a-half-year deal reportedly worth £100,000 a week in January 2013, but that commitment will have less than 18 months to run at the turn of the year.
The pacey forward has started only two matches in 2014 after injuring a cruciate ligament in January, but returned against Burnley on Saturday, coming off the bench in the Gunners’ 3-0 victory.
“We are starting to sit down with him,” manager Arsene Wenger said.
“I think he has one and a half years to go on his contract in December and it is never an easy job with him, you know.”
Since joining Arsenal as a teenager from Southampton in 2006, Walcott has scored 45 goals in 195 league appearances and the 25-year-old has established himself as a key man for both club and country.
“Will he be at his peak in the next few years? He should be, yes,” Wenger said. “He is 25. It is the best years now so hopefully we can profit from that.”
Arsenal host Anderlecht in the Champions League tonight, knowing a win will seal qualification to the knock-out stages as long as Borussia Dortmund also beat Galatasaray.
Walcott may start the Group D clash at the Emirates Stadium and, despite the Gunners’ wealth of attacking options, Mikel Arteta believes the England international brings a different dimension to the side.
“He is a unique player,” Arteta said.
“He has been here a long time and for us he is a player (that) gives us something very, very different. Theo has been tremendous for the last few seasons so to get a player like him back after a long time can only be a bonus for us.”
The race for top spot in the pool is still up for grabs. The Gunners are currently three points behind Dortmund, who they play at the Emirates later this month.
Arsenal have gone through second in three out of the last four years and on each occasion have lost in the last 16 – twice to Bayern Munich and once to Barcelona.
“We have to win the group,” Wenger said. “For example, in the last (four years) we have played Bayern twice and Barcelona.
“I don’t know exactly how it is in the other groups but it is always better if you finish first.
“Somewhere you feel guilty if you don’t finish first and if you are punished you think you deserved it because you finished second.”