Ahead of the club’s opening Champions League encounter, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has expressed his concern over the contract status of winger Theo Walcott.
The England international received a mixed reception from the Emirates faithful as he came onto the field to net during the Gunners’ 6-1 win over Southampton.
This came after speculation had mounted during the final weeks of the transfer window that Walcott had rejected a new deal, worth 75,000 pounds a week and was instead, holding out for 100,000.
And with the 23-year-old now entering the final year of his current deal, Wenger did little to calm fears he may be the latest big name to depart the Emirates.
He told the Guardian: “At the moment, I still hope to extend his contract so, at the moment, it doesn't affect me.
“Of course at some stage … if, in April, it's not done, you can think it will be difficult to do."
Wenger also responded to the groans around the Emirates expressed at Walcott’s introduction on Saturday, describing them as, ‘a worry’
“It is a worry. You want your players to be supported, no matter what kind of contractual situation they are in. I hope it will not affect him and that it will not affect our fans.
“Theo has gone through a lot at 23 years of age. A lot of positives, a lot of negatives and he's level-headed."
The Arsenal manager has left Walcott on the bench in each of the club’s first four league games this season and looks set to repeat the selection for the Gunners’ opening Champions League tie against Montpellier tonight.
Wenger serves the first of a three-match touchline ban tonight following an outburst at officials during the club’s quarterfinal defeat to Milan last season and admits it is somewhat of a problem.
"It [the ban] is a nightmare.
"Honestly, many people in UEFA, even [Michel] Platini, said that we should still let people work, even if they are suspended. It's part of the job and therefore a restriction of work.
"But I don't make a fuss of it. They love to suspend me. How should they punish people? Financially? But they do both. They punish you financially and they ban you."
This is Wenger’s third touchline ban in just over a year, following evidence he communicated with the club’s bench while serving a similar suspension against Udinese in last year’s Champions League qualifiers.
"Honestly, nobody knows really, even at UEFA, what is allowed and not allowed. Let's not forget that I was suspended last year for having done what they told me I can do.
"When I went back there and said: 'Why do you want to punish me?' They said: 'Because you communicated with your bench.' I said: 'But you allowed me to do it.' They said: 'We made a mistake. But we punish you anyway'."
Assistant Steve Bould will take charge of Arsenal for the visit to Montpellier and Wenger is predicting a tough test in France for his Gunners side.
"Montpellier wait for this game and maybe they missed a bit their championship because there is so much attention on this game," he continued.
"What they did last season is a miracle because a few years ago, they were in the second division. For this club, it is something exceptional."
- Champions League