Arsene Wenger hopes Theo Walcott fulfils his potential as a striker at Arsenal.

Contract talks between player and club have stalled with the Gunners unwilling to meet Walcott's wage expectations, while his demand to play in a central role is also a sticking point.

The 23-year-old underlined his goalscoring threat by firing a hat-trick in last night's thrilling 7-5 Capital One Cup victory over Reading.

Arsenal will sell Walcott in January if they fail to reach a compromise, but Wenger hopes he will remain at Emirates Stadium.

"Theo was superb last night. I always said that he will be a striker, so we are on the same wavelength there," he said.

"First of all he is a good finisher now. Secondly, he knows where to be in the box on the rebound.

"That's a quality of a striker you can't give, you feel it or you don't.

"He has the qualities to play as a striker and I hope he will be a striker at Arsenal. I always said I want to keep him.

"During the contract talks you have to give him credit for the way he's committed to the team and the way he behaves."

Should an agreement not be reached by January, Walcott would be free to open negotiations with overseas clubs to potentially sign a lucrative pre-contract agreement on a Bosman transfer.

Asked if Arsenal would have to sell Walcott if no deal was signed by the start of 2013, Wenger said: I would not like to.

"I have not even thought about that, because at the moment I think we will still manage to make a deal with him."

Another issue of contention with Walcott is understood to be his desire to play as a central striker, rather than being utilised down the flank.

Wenger feels Walcott will eventually be deployed in his preferred attacking role, as he was to devastating impact at Reading, but called for patience.

"I always said it is important that he plays in the right position and that certainly would be through the middle in the future, he showed that again on Tuesday night," Wenger said.

"The positions on the flanks are changing, you need to do a lot of defending. He should be dedicated more to offensive work."

Wenger added: "I have always come out publicly and said that I see him in the future through the middle as well. He loves to score goals, Theo.

"He has good pace, [makes] excellent, intelligent runs, and what has changed with Theo is he's [become] a very good finisher."