Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has put his reputation on the line by claiming contract rebel Theo Walcott will not be sold in January, even if he refuses to sign a new deal with the Gunners.
Walcott's current contract runs out at the end of this season and Wenger had previously hinted that he would consider selling the England winger if a new agreement had not been signed 'by the end of December at the latest'
But he has now offered an alternative negotiating position, with his own deadline looming large.
Liverpool and Manchester City were believed to be ready to pay as much as £10m to sign Walcott in the January transfer window, but Wenger appears to have closed the door on that possibility with his latest proclamations.
"Will he stay until the end of the season? Yes," Wenger said. "My intention has always been to keep Theo. We continue to talk and the ambition is to find an agreement.
"At the moment, we don't have that agreement, but we have until the end of December to resolve this. I am always optimistic. I talk to Theo every day, but not always about his contract. I let his agents deal with that."
Wenger made similar public vows to keep the likes of Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie as their contracts ticked down, but the Arsenal boss was eventually forced to sell his stars to avoid the prospect of losing them on free transfers.
It remains to be seen whether the Arsenal board will allow Wenger to take an alternative path with Walcott's future, but one prominent Gunners star is campaigning to ensure his England colleague remains at the Emirates Stadium.
"We can all see what Theo brings to the team and hopefully his contract can be sorted out," Jack Wilshere said. "He is an English lad and great to have around the dressing room. He has got pace, he can go behind and his movement and in terms of timing his runs, he is probably the best around."
Wilshere went on to hail the contribution of Santi Cazorla after he turned in another sparkling display in the win against Tottenham, comparing the Spanish maestro to some of the greatest players ever to have played the game.
"His touch and his vision is just a joke," Wilshere said. "He is a dream to play with. He never gives the ball away and he is creative and busy around the pitch. He is a joy to play with.
"Some people say he is like Cesc Fabregas, but he is a different player to Cesc. Santi can pick the ball up, he can beat people and he has got a great shot on him. He hasn't got a nickname here yet, but maybe it should be Messi or Maradona."