Arsène Wenger is "optimistic" that Theo Walcott will sign a new contract with Arsenal.

The England international has been in fine form this season and reports this week suggested that Walcott was ready to extend his stay at Emirates Stadium.

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Wenger remains cautious but confident that Arsenal's top scorer will commit his future to the Club.

"Discussions progress smoothly but slowly," he said. "We are on a good road but in this situation, as long as nothing is signed, you are cautious.

"But I am optimistic we will get to a happy conclusion. I was optimistic last week, but I am a bit more optimistic this week."

Wenger confirmed at his pre-match press conference that Walcott's future will be resolved by the end of January and added that a new deal was not reliant on assurances that the 23-year-old will play in his preferred centre forward role.

"No, it is not linked with that," said Wenger. "I believe that Theo can have a preference maybe to play through the middle but first of all he never made a condition of that to extend his contract, because certainly I would not accept it.

"Secondly he was always happier when he plays, whether it is on the flank or through the middle. That has no influence at all.

"No [I didn't make assurances], and he didn't make a condition of it as well. But I see him playing more up front, yes."

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Chris Harris 11 Jan 2013