Walcott: We need to realise our potential
Theo Walcott set his sights on firing Arsenal to some silverware after finally signing a new contract. The England forward, 23, would have been a free agent at the end of the season, and had been linked with a move away from Emirates Stadium - with both Liverpool and Manchester City said to be monitoring developments.
Walcott, however, stressed his desire was always to stay at Arsenal, the club he joined as a raw teenager from Southampton seven years ago. The deal - described officially as "long term", but understood to be a three-and-a-half-year extension - will reportedly make Walcott among the highest paid players at Emirates Stadium, close to £100,000-a-week, and involve a lucrative signing on fee.
With his future now resolved, Walcott has targeted helping drive the Gunners on to deliver a first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup. "I have made it clear from the start that I wanted to stay at Arsenal, so I am pleased we have agreed a deal that everyone is happy with," Walcott said on the club's official website, www.arsenal.com. "What is important now is for the team to realise its potential and win trophies."
Walcott continued: "I am very happy to have signed a new contract here at Arsenal - thanks to everyone for their continued support, especially the manager, everyone at the club and most importantly the fans."
Walcott is Arsenal's leading scorer this season with 14 goals, which includes two hat-tricks. It had been suggested part of any new deal was subject to Arsenal meeting Walcott's desire to be deployed more in his preferred role as a central striker.
Gunners boss Wenger, though, last week insisted there was no such clause, and that he would never agree to any tactical demands from any player. Walcott was back on the flank for the midweek FA Cup third-round replay victory over Swansea, with France international Olivier Giroud leading the attack.
Wenger hopes Walcott can now go on to fulfil his undoubted potential with the Gunners, having seen the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and, last summer, Robin van Persie all move on in recent seasons.
"Theo is a strong player and also a great person, and the combination of his ability and pace always make him such a valuable asset either from the flanks or down the middle," the Arsenal manager said. "Theo's contract extension now gives us a strong nucleus of ambitious young players who have committed to the club and want to be successful with us as a group."
Wenger added: "We are all delighted that Theo has signed a new contract. He joined us as a 16-year-old and since then has developed very well to become an extremely important player for both Arsenal and England."