Arsenal desperately needs to keep its attack intact as the second half of the English Premier League schedule progresses, and that means locking up thriving young striker Theo Walcott to a long-term contract extension as soon as possible.
While negotiations are reportedly going well, according to Daily Mirror reporter John Cross, there is the lurking possibility that Walcott won't take the offer currently on the table, which nets him 75,000 pounds per week.
That is because Walcott could earn far more money once the season is over, but it would also risk other clubs offering far more than the Gunners could, resulting in losing Walcott.
Manager Arsene Wenger has made it clear that Walcott's contract situation is his main focus with the January transfer window open and that he won't seriously look elsewhere to improve his club until Walcott's deal is done: "First of all what I said is that we have to make sure that the players who are here stay here. After we look outside. So let's first try to finalise the deal with Theo Walcott, and after if we need something else we will go somewhere. Our first priority is that."
But for the Gunners to truly compete with the two Manchester clubs and others ahead of them in the EPL table, they will have to acquire multiple assets—and retain one of their most vital ones in Walcott.
If Wenger truly is being literal about not pursuing any outside options until a Walcott deal is inked, then that only heightens the sense of urgency for the two sides to come to an agreement. But it also puts Wenger in a tough spot as pressure increases on him to deliver a trophy for the Gunners.
The 23-year-old Walcott recently moved to centre-forward after playing as a wing man primarily due to his speed and lack of finishing ability.
It is a move that he and the Gunners have enjoyed, as Arsenal is undefeated and has four victories in its past five EPL fixtures.
In 12 starts this season, Walcott has 14 goals, which included a hat trick in the highly entertaining 7-3 victory over Newcastle United. According to Arsenal's official website, he won the EA Sports Player of the Month for the third consecutive time.
But according to Paul Doyle of The Guardian, the Gunners may still be in the market for a new, more proven commodity at Walcott's new position—specifically Newcastle's Demba Ba, who is keeping his club from bottom-three obscurity.
Whatever his position and whatever his preference, there is no doubt that Walcott has been one of the hottest footballers to ring in the new year. There is so much room for him to grow, though, and with the form he has flashed, it would be hard not to
As Wenger insisted in Cross' report, this hangup in negotiations is not all about the money. The two sides will meet face-to-face within the next few days.
Getting Walcott signed and sealed as soon as possible will allow Arsenal to become more aggressive in courting Ba and helping strengthen the attack, which will be necessary to vault further up the EPL table.
Most importantly, though, it secures the future with Walcott, who has seemingly endless potential to be one of the more devastating scorers for years to come.