Arsène Wenger insists that there is no chance of Theo Walcott leaving Arsenal in January, after the 23-year-old seized centre stage in his team's breathtaking 7-3 defeat of Newcastle United, by scoring a hat-trick and creating two others. "I rule it out," the manager said emphatically when asked if Walcott would be sold when the transfer window opens in order to prevent him leaving for free when his contract expires in the summer.

There will be continued speculation about Walcott's future unless the player ends the long-running wrangling over a new deal. Wenger is confident he will do that soon because of his strong emotional bond with the club he joined six years ago. "The club loves him and he loves the club and reciprocity in love is the most difficult thing to find," Wenger said. "My desire is to extend his contract and I think he belongs here. Hopefully we can do it."

One key factor in Walcott's decision regarding his future is the position that he is deployed in, with the player believing he deserves to feature as a central striker rather than just a winger. Recent performances have helped bring Wenger around to Walcott's way of thinking. "He can play through the middle, I am convinced of that," the manager said after Walcott scored two of this three goals from a central position. "He's done very well … and he can only get stronger in there. I believe he has become a good finisher. He has learned a lot because he is an intelligent player and because he is intelligent he will continue to improve."

Wenger refused to discuss other factors in Walcott's decision. "I do not want to talk about money or speculation about the attitude of his agent," he said.