Arsenal tell Theo Walcott: sign contract or be sold
Theo Walcott will not allow his future over the next three days to be dictated by Arsenal, despite threats by the club to sell him after the England international rejected the second offer of a contract made to him over the weekend.
Walcott, 23, and his representatives had been preparing to continue negotiations beyond Friday's 11pm transfer deadline on a new deal for the player, having rejected the club's first two offers. However, despite interest from Manchester City and Liverpool they feel under no pressure to agree to a move away from the club by Friday with so many factors in their favour.
The feeling from Arsenal's side is that they cannot allow the player to leave for a relatively small compensation next July when his contract expires and he would be entitled to a lucrative Bosman free transfer. That has been the long-held fear at the club and yesterday's threats to sell him for £11m appears to be a last-ditch move to apply pressure to the player to sign.
Having sold Robin van Persie and Alex Song this summer, as well as Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gaël Clichy the previous year, Arsenal clearly recognise that selling Walcott as well would be far from ideal. Nevertheless, they would rather do that than allow him to enter the final year of his contract, which manager Arsène Wenger does not like to do with any player.
Regardless of the merits of the player one way or another, the responsibility for allowing Walcott to drift into the final year of his contract without issuing an ultimatum earlier belongs to Arsenal.
Walcott has rejected a £75,000-a-week offer although given that was only the club's second deal on the table it is not altogether surprising. The player and his representatives have only begun talking to the club since the end of Euro 2012. Discussions were due to begin in January but when Walcott asked the club for them to be delayed so he could concentrate on playing.
He spoke to Wenger in broad terms about his future during the tour of Asia last month and said that he wanted to stay at the club. While he is aware that Arsenal are not among the highest payers, Walcott recognises that, for the time being, there are benefits to him continuing his development there.
Arsenal would like to keep the player but at the moment the two sides are far apart in their valuation of Walcott's worth to the club, with the player seeking a £100,000-a-week deal. Arsenal regard that level as too much relative to what he has achieved so far at the club.