Negotiations have started, albeit moving slowly, over the prospect of a new??contract extension, with the England forward’s current ??90,000-a-week deal not??set to expire until the summer of 2016.
The 25-year-old’s career has been set back in the past 12 months by a serious knee injury, and Wenger’s options up front since Walcott’s purple patch of club form have been boosted by the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck.
Wenger retains faith in Walcott, who is the club’s longest-serving player, but he insists no-one will play in his starting XI without earning their place.
“The first contacts have been established with the embassy. We will see how??that (negotiations) progresses politically,” said Wenger when asked about Walcott’s longer-term future.
“Walcott was difficult to convince (in 2013) and that is why it took us much??time.
“We have a started very early with him, but it was slow progress – he is very??quick on the pitch, but off the pitch not always.”
Wenger continued: “I always wanted to keep him and I still want to keep him??now.
“I want him to stay and be a regular player and fight for his place, but no??matter where you go if it is a big club you have to compete for your place.
“We went to Manchester United on Monday night – look at what they had on the??bench, look at what was sitting on the bench at Chelsea versus Paris St Germain??on Wednesday night, that is part of the job.”
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain set for a spell on the sidelines because of a??hamstring injury, Walcott could come into contention against West Ham on??Saturday.
“It is an opportunity. Theo is ready now to play games, but when a player has??been out for a year, when he comes back he always thinks he is ready,” Wenger added.
“When you speak to him three weeks later and ask him if he thinks he really??was ready three weeks earlier, he says, ‘now I realise, no’.
“I have been holding him back because he has been out for a long time and for??the fact there is intense competition (in the side).”
Asked if players had to accept now that they cannot always start, Wenger said:??””They know that, we all know that. You know it, I know it.”