Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits he is “worried” by Theo Walcott’s ongoing transfer wrangle after the winger was jeered by sections of the Emirates Stadium faithful during Saturday’s 6-1 win against Southampton.
Walcott was greeted with a mixed reception when he came off the bench to score against his former employers and Wenger accepts the uncertainty over his future is not healthy for the player or his current club.
The 23-year-old will become a free agent if Arsenal fail to stop him running his contract down before the end of this season, and Wenger is clearly uncomfortable with the temporary agreement that ensured he did not leave ahead of the start of this campaign.
“Clearly it is a worry,” Wenger told reporters, when quizzed about the jeers directed at Walcott from Arsenal fans. “You want your players to be supported no matter what contractual situation they are in, but at the moment we cannot let this affect us.
“We are still in a position where we hope Theo extends his contract. If we are in the same position next April, then clearly it will be more difficult. For now, he says he wants to stay at Arsenal and is committed to the team and that is important.
“Theo is only 23, but he has been through a lot in his career already. A lot of positives and negatives. I am confident he will stay here, that is what we all hope.”
Meanwhile, Wenger had backed his assistant Steve Bould to fill the void he is set to leave on the sidelines in Montpellier on Tuesday night, as the veteran manager prepares to serve the first game of his three match ban handed down by UEFA following his rant at match officials during last season’s tie against AC Milan.
“I will speak to the team in the hotel and talk to Steve about the game, but there is always an element of the unexpected when you are in this situation,” states Wenger. “You sometimes have a feeling of being powerless sitting on the bench, but this is worse from the stands.
“Steve is focused and intelligent and clearly doing a good job. I chose him to join the first team staff as I felt he would add something different and have not been disappointed.”