Wenger confirmed the club’s intention to offer Walcott a new contract in February and when asked about whether talks had started on March 13, the Gunners boss replied: ‘The first contacts have been made and we will see how that progresses.’ However, Walcott, who currently earns £90,000-per-week, took to Twitter yesterday to contradict his manager.
In response to TV reports that he had been involved in a training-ground bust-up with Wenger, Walcott tweeted: ‘I don’t normally comment on false stories about myself but reports about contract demands and bust-ups with the boss are complete nonsense.
‘There have been no contract talks as yet and my current focus is not on contracts but on doing my best for Arsenal FC.’ Walcott’s tweet made for an intriguing twist in what is already turning out to be another uncomfortable contract extension saga between Arsenal and the England international.
The 26-year-old wants north of £100,000-per-week to sign a new contract at the Emirates Stadium.
Given he is not a first-team regular, the Arsenal hierarchy are showing a reluctance to meet Walcott’s pay demands.
Likewise, Walcott is growing increasingly frustrated at his lack of game time since returning from a long-term knee injury.
Walcott enters the final year of his contract at the end of the season and the Gunners will consider cashing in on the speedster in the summer, for a fee of around £15million, to avoid losing him for nothing in 2016.
And Sportsmail understands the club have already started identifying targets to replace Walcott if the contract stand-off cannot be resolved.
Borussia Dortmund forward Reus will lead the list of candidates to fill Walcott’s shoes if he leaves north London this summer.
The Gunners failed in an attempt to sign the Germany international last summer, but retain a strong interest.
The club’s global network of spies have been instructed to pinpoint potential candidates should Walcott leave.
Given Walcott’s speed, Arsenal scouts are paying particular attention to pacy players as they scour the world for his replacement.
Walcott will not be short of offers should he leave ahead of next season.
Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are all monitoring Walcott’s talks with a view to making a move.