Arsenal are preparing to open formal talks over the next fortnight with Theo Walcott and his representatives about extending his contract.
Although Arsène Wenger, the club’s manager, has said previously that initial discussions have been held, Walcott said subsequently that talks had not begun but did stress there had been “no bust-ups” and that he was focused only on football following his return from knee surgery.
The situation has since moved on and talks are now likely to be scheduled to take place in the fortnight between the FA Cup semi-final against Reading on Saturday and the Premier League match against Hull on May 4. There has been no offer as yet from Arsenal to extend the deal that expires next season but equally no demands from Walcott.
His return following almost a year out has coincided with Arsenal’s run of excellent form, which has meant limited opportunities in the first team for him to establish match fitness. Wenger, though, has clearly indicated that he wants Walcott to stay and believes that he is now entering the peak years of his career.
Walcott’s pace makes him a unique threat among Arsenal’s attackers, although news emerged recently that Héctor Bellerín had narrowly beaten Walcott’s club 40-metre sprint record. Bellerin’s record time was clocked at 4.42 seconds at the training ground.
Richard Kilty, Great Britain’s world and European indoor 60m champion, on Tuesday roundly challenged the likelihood of Bellerín’s time being accurate and challenged both Arsenal players to a race.
“Media claiming @HectorBellerin can run 4.42 over 40m,” wrote Kilty. “Absolutely no way. Are these journalists complete morons! I will put £30,000 on the line to race @HectorBellerin & @theowalcott any sprint distance, any time, any place, anywhere. The race will be over very quick. So if they put their money down I will gladly show everyone they cannot sprint as fast as the media claim.”
However, as reported in an interview with Bellerín last Thursday, Arsenal’s sprint tests allow players to build up speed before they start timing them, which makes Bellerín’s time believable. His effort should not be compared to the performances of sprinters in a race, given they are timed from a stationary start.
Walcott’s focus will be on helping Arsenal reach the FA Cup final and maintain their sequence of eight successive Premier League wins. Tickets for the possible title decider against Chelsea have been exchanging hands this week for almost £1,000.
The game is sold out but ticket exchange websites are still selling offers that range from about £170 for the cheapest seats in the Emirates Stadium to tickets priced at almost £1,000 in both the home and away sections. It is believed to be the highest figure for a match in England since the 2013 Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich at Wembley.
The demand has surprised even those who work in the ticketing industry, although prices are expected to dip if Chelsea beat Manchester United this weekend and go 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League. In the UK, the resale of football tickets is illegal unless the match organiser authorises it.
Tickets, however, can be sold legally by companies based abroad or by including another service as part of the transaction, such as some form of hospitality.
Tickets for the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley between Manchester United and Barcelona reached £6,000 on some websites.
Arsenal do run their own ticket exchange that allows season-ticket holders who are unable to attend a game to sell their tickets to Arsenal members or to transfer them to family or friends. One of their aims of the service is to “assist us in our objectives of eradicating the illegal sale of tickets through touts”.