Arsenal are likely to be without Theo Walcott for their game against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth in the New Year, with the forward yet to recover from a slight calf strain he picked up before West Bromwich Albion.

The 27-year-old has scored 11 goals this season, including one against Manchester City and Arsene Wenger may be looking to give Lucas Perez an opportunity after the forward made a good case for his inclusion after coming on as a substitute against the Baggies.

The Guardian reports that Walcott has not recovered from his setback and is likely to miss their next two games, with the Gunners currently nine points adrift of leaders Chelsea in the race for the title. Alexis Sanchez was shunted to the left while Alex Iwobi operated from the right in Walcott's absence, with Olivier Giroud getting his first start of the season.

Giroud, who scored the winner, may be given another run out by the manager against Palace, who will be managed by Sam Allardyce, following his appointment after the dismissal of Alan Pardew. The Eagles took the lead against Watford on Boxing Day but failed to hold on as Troy Deeney scored from the spot to take a share of the spoils.

Meanwhile, Giroud has revealed that he is close to signing a new contract with his current deal expiring after the end of the season. The Frenchman has mostly operated from the bench this season but is determined to get more minutes on the pitch and help the Gunners close the gap on Chelsea.

Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott after scoring the opener against Manchester City Getty Images

"People have been saying I have signed a new contract," Giroud said. "It is not true but may be soon. It is all about keeping the focus high. Always keep working hard at training. I was speaking with the boss, we had a couple of discussions together and he explained to me why I hadn't played too much until here. But football is an everlasting new beginning, as I used to say, and you always have to keep focused and wait for your time."