Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has insisted that he did not entertain the idea of selling Theo Walcott during the summer transfer window. The 27-year-old has impressed so far this season with seven goals in his first nine appearances including a first-half brace during an entertaining 3-2 win over Bob Bradley's Swansea on Saturday (15 October) and such encouraging performances earned a swift recall to senior England duty for 2018 World Cup qualifying under Sam Allardyce and temporary successor Gareth Southgate.
That tally is only two less than Walcott managed during a typically frustrating and injury-disrupted 2015/16 campaign, after which he was deservedly omitted from Roy Hodgson's squad for the European Championships in France. The former Southampton prodigy started just 15 times in the Premier League last term and the London Evening Standard reported in June that West Ham, offering more regular first-team football, were sounding out the possibility of making a £25m ($30.7m) offer with Arsenal in hot pursuit of Leicester striker Jamie Vardy at that stage.
Neither deal eventually came to fruition, of course, with Wenger stating defiantly in May that Walcott would stay put. Vardy, meanwhile, elected to snub a potential £20m switch to north London and instead put pen to paper on an improved four-year contract with the defending Premier League champions worth approximately £100,000-per-week.
When questioned about that interest in Walcott during a press conference held prior to Wednesday's Champions League visit of Group A minnows Ludogorets Razgrad, Wenger was quoted as saying by BBC Sport: "I have not spoken to anybody because I was not ready to let him go."
On the player's overall form, he said: "He lets the passion for the game come out of his body and that is what you want from him. When he plays with more freedom, he lets his thoughts come out and plays with more desire because he is a less restricted player."
Wenger was also asked quizzed about the woeful disciplinary record of summer signing Granit Xhaka, who received his marching orders with 20 minutes remaining against Swansea for a highly cynical challenge on Modou Barrow that his manager believed to be worthy of a "dark yellow" rather than a "bright red". That sending off was the former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder's eighth in just two-and-a-half years for club and country and followed his dismissal for two bookable offences in Switzerland's 2-0 win over Portugal last month.
No player in Europe's top five leagues has been sent off more often than Xhaka in that same time frame, although Wenger is confident that the 24-year-old is intelligent enough to analyse that latest mistake on his own.
"It is one red card," he added. "We are not responsible for the red cards he got somewhere else. Yes, he made a foul that could have got him a yellow card, that could have got him a red card and it was not meant to hurt anybody. It was just a late tackle to stop the counter-attack that has been punished. He is intelligent enough to analyse that as well."