Wenger: No Arsenal deal for Walcott...yet
Theo Walcott could spend the rest of the season with Southampton, even if a deal was struck for him to move to Arsenal.
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger yesterday maintained any talk of a £10million offer for the highly-rated 16-year-old was somewhat premature, but indicated he would be keen on adding the youngster to his squad.
Southampton - relegated from the top flight last season - maintain they are in no rush to sell their prize asset, who looks certain to be a full England international in the future.
Wenger is clearly a big fan of Walcott - but indicated the Barclays Premiership club may perhaps consider allowing him to finish the current campaign at St Mary's should any agreement on his transfer be reached.
'He's a player we rate. I rate him personally and we are looking at him, yes,' said Wenger.
But the Arsenal manager insisted: 'It is not at the numbers you suggest because we are not in advanced negotiations at all.
'Is he available or not? We are not the only club who is after Theo Walcott - but you ask me if I like him, I will say `yes'.'
Wenger added were an agreement to be struck, that: 'Ideally we would like him to join us straight away.
'But it would not be a deal breaker if Southampton would say 'listen, we want the player to finish the season with us'.'
However, Wenger stressed: 'From me liking him, him liking the club and the deal being done, there is still a step to go.'
On whether talks had actually taken place between the two clubs, the Arsenal manager maintained: 'I wouldn't like to come out with that.
'If I say yes, it's a yes, if I say no, it's a no.
'The more secret things like that are, the better it is.'
It would seem, however, only a matter of time before Arsenal make their interest official.
The striker has a pre-contract agreement with the Saints to sign a professional contract on his 17th birthday in March.
However, FIFA rules mean Walcott could sign for another club after his birthday, with the south-coast club entitled to compensation - which could be around £500,000 - decided by a tribunal.
As determined as Saints are to hold on to Walcott, chairman Rupert Lowe accepts there may come a time when it was right for the striker to further his career elsewhere.
Walcott has scored five goals in 22 appearances so far this season and Wenger has clearly seen enough to believe he has the potential to make an impact at the highest level.
'I like the timing of his runs, his determined attitude, the fact that he can play in different positions up front; that he is calm in front of goal,' said the Arsenal manager.
'The composure he shows in decisive moments does not change, whether it is in Division One or Premiership - you have that or you don't have that.
'His determination as well, and he has electric pace.'