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Arsenal 'open contract talks with 18-year-old defender Reuell Walters'

Arsenal 'open contract talks with 18-year-old defender Reuell Walters'
© Reuters
Arsenal reportedly begin contract talks with 18-year-old defender Reuell Walters, who is due to become a free agent in 2024 and is attracting interest from abroad.

Arsenal have reportedly begun negotiations with 18-year-old defender Reuell Walters over a new contract.

The 2004-born centre-back - who celebrates his 19th birthday on Saturday - is yet to make his first-team debut for the club, but he has been in and around the senior squad under Mikel Arteta and featured in their summer friendly with Nurnberg.

Walters was previously a member of Tottenham's youth academy before crossing the North London divide to join Arsenal, and he made Arteta's bench in both the Premier League and Europa League last term.

Walters has also been named in the matchday squad for the Gunners' last two Premier League contests with Aston Villa and Luton Town, and he boasts two assists from 47 games for the club's Under-21s.

At academy level, the 18-year-old has served as captain for Arsenal in the UEFA Youth League - scoring in a 1-1 draw against Sevilla - and he will be pushing to make his senior debut in Tuesday's Champions League clash with PSV Eindhoven.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta pictured on November 25, 2023© Reuters

In March, Walters also earned his first three caps for England's Under-19s, and he is capable of playing as a right-back and right-wing back as well as his preferred central position.

The 18-year-old will enter the final six months of his Arsenal deal in January, though, leaving him free to discuss pre-contract terms with foreign clubs ahead of a potential free transfer.

However, the Evening Standard now reports that Arsenal have begun contract talks with Walters's entourage over a new deal amid interest from clubs in the Premier League and across Europe.

The Gunners apparently have high hopes for Walters in North London, and while he is happy in his hometown, European teams are hopeful that the prospect of increased game time could tempt him away.

Despite playing for England at youth level, Walters is also eligible to represent Germany or Jamaica as a senior player, and clubs in the Bundesliga could therefore give particular consideration to a swoop.

Arsenal's Declan Rice celebrates scoring their fourth goal with teammates on December 5, 2023© Reuters

A loan exit during the January window had also been mooted, but the report adds that Arsenal intend to keep him around for the second half of the season due to their injury problems at the back.

Summer signing Jurrien Timber is facing a race against time to be fit before the end of the season owing to his ACL injury, while another versatile option in Takehiro Tomiyasu will miss a few more weeks with a calf problem.

In addition, Thomas Partey - who was deployed as a right-back at the beginning of the season - is recuperating from thigh surgery, while attacking midfielder Fabio Vieira has undergone a groin operation.

Arteta was dealt another double blow during Monday morning's training session ahead of Tuesday's Champions League trip to PSV Eindhoven, as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli missed the session due to a foot issue and illness respectively.

However, Emile Smith Rowe was put through his paces after shaking off a knee problem and could be in contention to play at Philips Stadion on Tuesday evening, where Arteta should rotate his resources with first place in Group B already confirmed.

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