London: Theo Walcott will hold fresh contract talks with Arsenal as he prepares to take his place on the club’s tour of Asia that begins on Saturday.
The England international returns to pre-season training in the next 24 hours following his summer break and is expected to then thrash out his future with the club.
Walcott will be on the flight to Kuala Lumpur that leaves on Saturday for the first leg of the club’s Asia tour, although it is not yet guaranteed that he will be joined on the plane by Arsenal’s other high-profile contract rebel, Robin van Persie.
It is understood that discussions will swiftly take place with senior officials, including manager Arsene Wenger, about breaking Walcott’s contract stalemate.
The north Londoners have put together a four-year package for the 23-year-old in a bid to tie him down beyond the summer of 2013, when his current agreement expires.
But contract talks have not progressed since two informal meetings last December and Walcott is believed to be seeking personal assurances from Wenger about where he fits into the manager`s plans.
There is no suggestion at this stage that Walcott, who currently earns £60,000 per week, wants to leave Arsenal this summer.
Although the England international has refused to publicly discuss his future beyond this season or accept several opportunities to express his desire to stay at Arsenal, it is believed that he is happy at Emirates Stadium and very settled in the south-east.
The winger established himself as an undisputed first-team regular last season, starting 29 of Arsenal’s first 32 Premier League matches and only succumbing to injury in the final weeks of the season when he tore his hamstring. He was the club’s second leading scorer behind Van Persie, weighing in with 11 goals in all competitions.
It is understood that Arsenal are not willing to increase their package for Walcott beyond £80,000-a-week.
The player, who joined Arsenal as a 16-year-old in 2006, believes he could be on a similar salary to many of his fellow England internationals of around £100,000-a-week.
Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool are among the English clubs monitoring Walcott’s contract talks, while Juventus head a queue of admirers from Italy and Spain, although none have yet been given encouragement to make a serious move.