• Walcott has played just 47 minutes of Premier League football this season.
  • Arsene Wenger remains reluctant to allow him to leave midway through the season.

Theo Walcott's position as Arsenal's longest serving first-team player looks to be coming to an end with Everton said to be leading the race to sign the forward, who has fallen out of favour this season.

Arsene Wenger remains reluctant to allow Walcott to leave the club midway through the campaign, but the Gunners' striker is said to want to leave as he is keen to play regular first-team football.

The 28-year-old, who joined Arsenal from Southampton as a fresh faced 16-year-old in 2006, has fallen down the pecking order this campaign with Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Iwobi ahead of him for a place behind the main striker.

Walcott has made just 15 appearances across all competitions thus far this campaign and most of them have been in the Carabao Cup and the Europa League. He has been afforded just 49 minutes in the Premier League, which has prompted him to look for a move elsewhere.

The England international is keen to come back into reckoning for a place in Gareth Southgate's 23-man World Cup squad and to do that he needs to play regularly in the Premier League. Southampton have confirmed their interest in re-signing the forward and Walcott is said to be keen to return to St Mary's even if it is on a temporary basis until the end of the season.

The Saints, however, are said to have baulked at Arsenal's £25m valuation, but their reluctance looks to have opened the door to other interested clubs. According to the Daily Mail, Everton are now leading the race to sign Walcott and are looking to do a deal with the Gunners for a fee of around £20m ($27.1m).

The report claims that the Toffees will be more likely to offer Walcott a contract closer to his current deal with Arsenal which earns him around £110,000-a-week, while a move to the Saints will have to see him take a pay cut.

However, Southampton could have an advantage if the Gunners' star is reluctant to uproot his young family and move them up north to Merseyside. A move to Southampton will allow his family to remain in the south of England, where they currently reside.

Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott has played just 47 minutes of Premier League football this season Getty