Arsene Wenger has spoken candidly regarding the future of Theo Walcott, following the latter's excellent display against West Brom, insisting that Arsenal do want him to stay at the Emirates Stadium as negotiations over a possible contract extension finally commence.
The England international, who missed nine months of 2014 after suffering a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury, had only made 10 previous starts in the Premier League this season, but provided a timely reminder of his enduring quality with a scintillating first-half hat-trick that helped his team cruise to a comfortable 4-1 victory on the final day.
Walcott's current deal is due to expire in 2016 and Wenger is evidently keen to see the 26-year-old remain as he looks likely to grant the player's long-standing wish to play more regularly in his preferred central position rather than out on the flank.
"Without his hat-trick or with his hat-trick, we want him to stay," he was quoted as saying by Arsenal's official website.
"We are in negotiations and we have started to speak with his agent. We did that before he scored his hat-trick. Last time he got injured he was playing centre forward in a very convincing game against Tottenham Hotspur in January.
"He got injured and was out for a year. On that day he was injured playing up front."
Arsenal's usual first-choice striker, Olivier Giroud, was relegated to the substitutes' bench for the visit of West Brom and although he has scored 20 goals in all competitions to date this term, nagging doubts continue to persist as to whether the Frenchman is good enough to fulfil the role on a long-term basis.
The idea of Walcott featuring predominantly through the middle is certainly not anything new, yet his manager clearly believes he still possesses the necessary quality to do so now he has recovered sufficiently from his latest injury nightmare.
"He was already sharp when he came on in our midweek game against Sunderland," Wenger added.
"He was the one who created the chances and I always said that he could play through the middle because he has good movement, good finishing and he did that well today.
"He's a good goal scorer but he has been out for a year. A year in football is a long, long time and it takes more time to come back to your best so that you are sharp and confident. Jack (Wilshere) is a bit similar. He has been out for six months and now he is coming back. He had a very convincing performance in the first half."
Next up for Arsenal following what was only their second win in six matches is an FA Cup final date against Aston Villa at Wembley.
Tim Sherwood's side, victors over Liverpool at the semi-final stage, finished their eventful top-flight campaign with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to relegated Burnley at Villa Park.
Danny Ings' 11th-minute header in what will almost certainly prove his final appearance for the club before an inevitable summer transfer was enough to secure all three points for the visitors who eventually finished 19th due to a combination of that result and QPR's 5-1 humbling at Leicester.