Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits there is an "urgency" to conclude Theo Walcott's contract negotiations one way or another.
The former Saints starlet forward, fit again from a chest injury suffered on international duty against San Marino, netted a hat-trick in the Gunners' stunning 7-5 Capital One Cup win at Reading in midweek It was a rare start for the 23-year-old, who has been restricted to mainly substitute appearances this season.
Walcott's current deal expires in the summer, and as yet there has been no positive conclusion as negotiations continue with the parties still some distance apart over wages.
Wenger has always stressed the club's desire to keep the player and would prefer a swift conclusion.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Manchester United, he said: "There is urgency, how much I don't know, but there is urgency.
"We want to sort it out before Christmas, one way or the other."