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Football | Barclays Premier League

Wenger encouraged by Walcott talks



Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said on Friday that he is increasingly optimistic that winger Theo Walcott will sign a new contract at the club.

Walcott will be out of contract at the end of the season and has reportedly been offered a five-year deal worth £90 000 ($145 000, 110 000 euros) per week that would make him one of the best-paid players at the Emirates Stadium.

"We are on a good road but in this situation, as long as nothing is signed, you are cautious, but I am optimistic we will get to a happy conclusion," said Wenger, ahead of Sunday's home game with Manchester City.

"I was optimistic last week, but I am a bit more optimistic this week. Discussions progress smoothly, but slowly."

Asked if he thought an agreement would be reached by the end of the month, Wenger replied: "Yes."

Walcott is thought to want assurances that he will be given opportunities to play as a central striker and he has been deployed in that position in recent weeks, notably claiming a hat-trick in a 7-3 rout of Newcastle United.

However, Wenger said he would never allow a player to exert undue influence over his tactical decisions.

"Theo can have a preference maybe to play through the middle, but first of all, he never made a condition of that to extend his contract, because certainly I would not accept it," the Frenchman said.

"Secondly he was always happier when he plays, whether it is on the flank or through the middle. That has no influence at all.

"Theo just wants to play and he is happy to play on the flank as well."

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