Wenger keen on Walcott extension
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger wants Theo Walcott to stay at Arsenal for the long-term - but warned there can be no guarantees of a first-team place for anyone.
Negotiations have started, albeit moving slowly, over the prospect of a new contract extension, with the England forward's current £90,000-a-week deal not set to expire until the summer of 2016.
The landscape now, however, is much different to the last time the club were looking to secure Walcott's future in what turned out to be a protracted saga before he eventually signed in January 2013, with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and fellow England colleague Danny Welbeck also now on board.
Walcott, 25, has spent the last few games watching from the bench as he is eased back from a year out after a serious knee injury.
Wenger still has every faith in the former Southampton starlet, who joined Arsenal in January 2006 and is the club's longest-serving player, but insists everyone has to earn their spot in the starting XI.
"The first contacts have been established with the embassy. We will see how that (negotiations) progresses politically," said Wenger.
"Walcott was difficult to convince (in 2013) and that is why it took us much time.
"We have started very early with him, but it was slow progress - he is very quick on the pitch, but off the pitch not always."
Wenger continued: "I always wanted to keep him and I still want to keep him now.
"I want him to stay and be a regular player and fight for his place, but no matter where you go if it is a big club you have to compete for your place.
"We went to Manchester United on Monday night - look at what they had on the bench, look at what was sitting on the bench at Chelsea versus Paris St Germain on Wednesday night, that is part of the job."
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain set for a spell on the sidelines because of a hamstring injury, Walcott could come into contention against West Ham on Saturday.
"It is an opportunity. Theo is ready now to play games, but when a player has been out for a year, when he comes back he always thinks he is ready," said Wenger.
"When you speak to him three weeks later and ask him if he thinks he really was ready three weeks earlier, he says, 'now I realise, no'.
"I have been holding him back because he has been out for a long time and for the fact there is intense competition (in the side)."
Asked if players had to accept now that they cannot always start, Wenger said: "They know that, we all know that. You know it, I know it."
Captain Mikel Arteta is another player Arsenal intend to hold onto, but will not offer the 32-year-old Spaniard more than a one-season extension as line with club policy.
"Nothing is done yet," said Wenger.
"I don't know what he wants more than one year - ideally he wants 10 years, but no, he will not get more than one year anyway."
Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to be sidelined for around a month, which rules him out of the contention England's Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley on March 27 and the friendly with Italy in Turin four days later, along with Jack Wilshere who is recovering from minor ankle surgery.
The 21-year-old had just returned to the side from a groin injury, and impressed against United, helping to set up Arsenal's opening goal at Manchester United as they reached the FA Cup semi-finals.
Wenger, though, feels Oxlade-Chamberlain can recover.
"We are always tempted to play him because he even if he is not completely fit, he has that surge of power, naturally, that even if you think he will not last 90 minutes he can still make a difference," the Arsenal boss added.