- Premier League
Wenger: Walcott owes Arsenal
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has put further pressure on Theo Walcott to commit his future to the club, insisting the England forward must repay the Gunners' faith in him.
Wenger again insisted that Walcott will not be sold in the January transfer window, even if he refuses to extend his Arsenal contract that will run out next summer.
Now the Arsenal boss has played the loyalty card as he tries to persuade Walcott to follow the likes of Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain by extending his stay at the Emirates.
"I believe what is important to keep the young players is that at some stage I have stood up for them," Wenger said. "It is easier to take a player of 25 and put him in the team. You know what you are getting. If you put them in at 17 or 18, you have to stand up for them. There is a risk you will lose games while they are learning their job.
"Once you have produced them, you want to say; 'Okay, let's stay together and win together'. Somewhere along the line they need to give back to the club what the club has given to them.
"If a guy gets to 30, you can understand it is his last contract and if he feels he wants a change, I can understand that. This is a more sensitive age, but basically it is a reward for our policy.
"Robin [van Persie] was 29 [when he left]. Theo is 23. I believe it is important we keep him. I don't want to compare it but it would be a big loss for us. I want him to stay and I have been consistent on that.
"With Theo, I have always believed that he would sign a new contract. He has always looked to me like he is an Arsenal man and hopefully it can be resolved."
Walcott's wage demands have been a driving factor in his request for a move away from the club, but Wenger is confident Arsenal have the capacity to persuade the 23-year-old.
"I won't sell him in January, that is for sure, because my gut feeling is that he belongs to this club and I am always convinced he will stay," Wenger said. "I am happy to pay Theo the money he deserves. But I feel as well that I bought him and spent a lot of money on him.
"You never fix yourself a limit on financial restrictions. I believe the board will follow my recommendation if possible. We have a wage bill that has to be respected. When we go higher than expected, I ask the board to do it and most of the time they follow my demands."
Meanwhile, Wenger has suggested England is now producing the kind of quality footballers he once believed he needed to import to bring success at Arsenal, with the likes of Walcott, Wilshere and Kieren Gibbs giving him strong hope that home grown stars can dominate his side in years to come.
"The youth policy has improved in England and therefore we produce more good players in this country," he said. "We try to take advantage of it. The game we want to play demands a little bit of blind understanding. Therefore it is important that we keep the same players together."