It was hardly surprising that aggravation was etched all over Arsène Wenger's face as he contemplated some of Arsenal's key problems. Form is flaky, the injury list is typically irritating, the atmosphere around the Emirates is pressured and, to cap it all, the Frenchman then faced the weekly inquisition about what he will do with Theo Walcott come January if the winger shows no inclination to sign a contract extension.

"If you ask me will we sell Theo in January? No," he said emphatically.

His expression was undeniably hacked off. His irritation on the subject was obvious. "I am frustrated, honestly," he went on. "I have always been hopeful he will sign.

"Between the player and me it is all clear, he knows what he wants and he has to make up his mind. The negotiations have been going on a long, long time." With six months left to go before Walcott will be a free agent, and the player holding out for a wage beyond the club's valuation, the situation remains sticky.

It leaves Arsenal in the kind of dilemma they have faced too often recently, where they must weigh up whether to cash in on what's left of a player's deal while they can, or allow the contract to run down and enable him to leave in the summer for nothing. Wenger may say "no" now but it would be a first if the club show the resolve not to rake in what they can for players with dwindling contracts.

Players such as Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri have demonstrated that money talks to Arsenal's current owners. The question of whether their new £150m sponsorship deal with Emirates changes that stance is fundamental.

Wenger also declared himself "quite amazed" about stories suggesting Bacary Sagna is another player shuffling towards an exit.

These issues only darken the clouds gathering above the club. Wenger is keen to try to bring the section of openly dissatisfied supporters onside. While acknowledging their right to express themselves, he believes the players need to feel more positive vibrations.

Asked if there was tension in the dressing room before games, Wenger reacted with a deep pause. It spoke volumes. "There is always tension before kick-off," he said. Arsenal dearly need to find some cheer against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday and a pick-up after four games without a win.

He rejects the claim that this is the worst period he has experienced as Arsenal manager. "Let's not go overboard. We have 24 games to play, we are in all the competitions, which many clubs would love to be, so it is down to us to make the season right.

"We are in a job where you cannot only dream to do this when it all goes well. You have to do it when it does not go so well. We had it much more difficult last year. We were lower down. We were completely decimated. This year it is not so much the case, it is just that at home we have not got the points we should produce.

"We have just qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League. People who have spent a lot of money have not done it. But football is more than just splashing out. It's much deeper, much bigger than that. It's about sweat, thinking, working hard.

"So we have to trust this team and stand behind them. I understand the fans' frustration, of course, but I ask them to support the team and help us to get through that difficult patch."