Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is fully aware of Everton target Theo Walcott's frustration over his lack of game-time this season and has praised the attacker's will to force his way into his plans as he bids to keep the bulk of his squad together during the January transfer window.
Walcott has had to make do with a bit-part role at The Emirates Stadium this season, with the majority of his action coming in the Europa League and Carabao Cup. The former Southampton starlet has only made three league appearances so far this season, all of which have come from the substitutes' bench, but Wenger has been pleased by the 28-year-old's attitude to his current situation.
Everton were said to have made an enquiry over Walcott's availability ahead of the January transfer window as new manager Sam Allardyce plots attacking signings. Allardyce is seen as a fan of Walcott having included him in his sole England squad and confirmed that a new forward is a priority for Everton next month, but Arsenal boss Wenger does not want to lose any members of his squad as he prepares his side for a gruelling second half of the campaign, during which they could be fighting on four fronts.
"Of course he (Walcott) is frustrated but he is focused," Wenger said, per Football.London. "He doesn't give up at all and is more determined than ever.
"I have to consider the interest in the player, but dominant of that will be the interest of the club. If you can combine the two then even better, but first it's what is important to the club.
"I want to keep the squad because we qualify now for the Europa League. We do not want to reduce the squad. We have the League Cup still, we have the FA Cup to come, the Premier League where we have a big fight to be in the top four. We don't want to become weaker."
Walcott's £110,000-a-week contract runs out at the end of next season, but there is no sign of fresh terms being penned soon. Everton, backed by former Arsenal shareholder Farhad Moshiri, would have little issue accommodating Walcott's wage should he arrive on Merseyside, and Wenger did admit that an extension could only be agreed if the forward was content with his role in north London.
Asked about a possible new contract for Walcott, the Arsenal boss said: "That's difficult for me to answer. The player has to be happy to come to the table and and analyse his situation. I haven't started yet."