Arsenal's Wenger hopes forward Walcott will be core of dream team
Arsenal manager tells star forward he hopes to build a team of local players around him and hints club has resources to pay for top talent
Agence France-Presse in Reading
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has told Theo Walcott he wants to build a squad of English players around him after the forward scored in the 5-2 win at Reading.
Wenger also hinted the club could finally afford to pay the wages demanded by star players after seasons of seeing them leave for rivals at home and abroad.
As it stands, Walcott will be able to leave on a free transfer in the summer and would join a lengthy list of high-profile ex-Gunners that includes Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
His England colleague Jack Wilshere promised he would soon sign a new five-year contract, but so far Walcott has proved reluctant to follow suit.
Wenger made it clear he had not given up on the 23-year-old.
"He has become a top player at Arsenal and I hope when he considers his future he will consider this is the best place for him and he will sign for us," he said.
"I do not want to go into details, but I will say that our desire is clear and he knows that. Hopefully he can get to a happy end with that.
"I believe that we have a good core of young English players. We couldn't keep the good core of young foreign players, but I hope we will be capable of building the team around these English players and for them to achieve something together.
"I believe as well that when a club gives a chance to young players the players must say 'let's do it together' because if you educate players at some stage their fate is in their own hands."
Wenger also shed light on the club's ability to pay top-bracket wages following the move to the Emirates Stadium six years ago.
"We have gone through a period where we had restricted potential financially, when we moved into the new stadium," he said.
"We have got over that period and hopefully now we can be a bit more convincing."
Wilshere made it clear he would be delighted if Walcott committed his future to the Gunners.
"I've been working all year on him," said the 20-year-old. "It is between Theo, his representative and the boss, but hopefully we can sign him up."
Walcott was coy about what the outcome would be.
"Talks are ongoing and it is going to be a slow process. But I'm sure something will happen soon."
Walcott, playing in his favoured position of central striker, scored his side's fifth goal after Lukas Podolski opened the scoring and Santi Cazorla added another three.
Reading pulled two back in quick succession through substitute Adam Le Fondre and Jimmy Kebe, but Walcott's goal ended their resistance.
The result left Reading still bottom of the Premier League table and unlikely to avoid the drop unless significant investment is made in the squad next month.
Manager Brian McDermott, who is a former Arsenal player, promised the unhappy fans he would do his best to improve a squad struggling to bridge the gap between the top flight and the Championship.
"It would be good if we could get two or three players who have played at this level, but whether we can do that or not time will tell," he said. "January is a difficult window especially if you are struggling in the league."