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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 14:14 GMT
Wenger hopeful on Walcott switch
Theo Walcott
Arsenal are keen to sign Southampton teenager Theo Walcott.

BBC Sport revealed on Friday that the Gunners are leading the race for the 16-year-old striker, though both clubs insist a deal has yet to be finalised.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said: "He's a player we rate. I rate him personally and we are looking at him, yes.

"Ideally we would want Theo to join us straight away. But it would not be a deal-breaker if Southampton say they want him to finish the season there."

Rated as the finest prospect since Wayne Rooney, Walcott has scored five goals in 12 starts for Southampton this season.

And he has been linked with other Premiership clubs - including Chelsea and Tottenham - as well as Arsenal.

Wenger added he had been impressed by Walcott's speed and his ability to play in several different attacking positions.

"I like the timing of his runs, his determined attitude, the fact that he can play in different positions up front and that he is calm in front of goal," Wenger said.

"The composure he shows in decisive moments doesn't change, whether it's in division one or the Premiership - you have that or you don't have that. He has determination as well as electric pace."

The fee could be as much as 15m, though Wenger believes that price is far too high for a player of only 16.

"It (15m) is not a lot, it is massive," he said. "It's the money for a confirmed player and it's a little bit too high."

Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe also insisted a deal had not been reached for the teenage striker.

"We do not think it would be right for Theo to leave Southampton," Lowe said.

"He has flourished under our academy structure and has played regular first-team football and he likes the club.

"There have been plenty of inquiries about him but we have not received any formal offer and we have not agreed any deal to sell him.

"Clive Woodward (Southampton's director of football) and I visited Arsenal's training ground on Thursday just to look at their facilities, which are magnificent.

"Maybe that has caused some crossed wires? But we have not agreed to sell Theo - we want to keep him."

Lowe also confirmed that Walcott will be in the Saints squad for the trip to QPR on Saturday.

Our only concern is Theo's best interest and development as a player
Colin Gordon
Walcott's agent

Walcott shot to prominence after becoming the youngest player to represent Saints, making his debut as a 73rd-minute substitute in August's curtain-raiser against Wolves when aged just 16 years and 143 days.

The teenager also set the record for Saints' youngest goalscorer when he netted in the 2-1 defeat at Leeds on 18 October - his first senior start.

Walcott has a pre-contract agreement with the Saints to sign a professional contract on his 17th birthday in March.

His agent, Colin Gordon, added: "Our only concern is Theo's best interest and development as a player."


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News conference: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger



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