Everton's hopes of pursuing a New Year deal for Theo Walcott have been scuppered after Arsene Wenger confirmed that Arsenal will not sell their long-serving forward during the January transfer window.
Walcott has been a peripheral figure at the Emirates Stadium so far this term, with six of his 10 first-team appearances coming in the Europa League and Carabao Cup. The 28-year-old has been restricted to just 46 minutes across three substitute cameos in the Premier League, the last of which came against Brighton & Hove Albion in early October.
He missed the trip to Cologne through illness and, despite returning to first-team training weeks ago, has not featured in a matchday squad since the defeat at Manchester City on 5 November.
However, he will be inserted into a much-changed starting lineup on Thursday night (7 December) when Group H winners Arsenal welcome Belarusian champions BATE Borisov to north London.
Such a lack of regular football has led to renewed suggestions that Walcott could seek pastures new after nearly 12 years, with reports suggesting that the Gunners are now willing to let him depart if they receive an acceptable offer amid interest from former club Southampton and long-term suitors West Ham United.
The Mail claimed yesterday that Sam Allardyce, who called up Walcott for his sole game as England boss in September 2016 and sent him on for the closing stages of that last-gasp victory against Slovakia, has identified the player as a potential target as he seeks to bolster Everton's meagre attacking options for the second half of a massively underwhelming season.
The Toffees, badly lacking in credible alternatives to Oumar Niasse in the final third despite a summer of heavy spending, are already said to have made enquiries over his availability for next month and would have no problems in matching his current £110,000-a-week ($147,223) wages.
However, speaking at a press conference held before that visit of BATE, Wenger remained defiant over Walcott's future.
"Yes," he replied when asked if he would keep him at the club when the market reopens for business.
Initially quizzed as to whether Walcott, under contract until 2019, still had a role to play at Arsenal given that shortage of opportunities, he said: "Yes. He works very hard to come back into it.
"He was sick and after that I didn't change the squad. In training he looks very sharp and I'm sure he will show that tomorrow."
Experienced top-flight trio Jermain Defoe, Andy Carroll and Christian Benteke are also believed to be on Allardyce's radar heading into January, while they have been surprisingly mentioned as a potential next destination for wantaway Borussia Dortmund frontman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.