Wilshere's new deal a sign to Wenger the best way forward is British

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The Independent Online

England midfielder Jack Wilshere was one of five Arsenal players to agree new long-term contracts with the club yesterday. Wilshere has committed his future to Arsenal alongside fellow internationals Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey.

"We are delighted that these five young players have all signed new long-term contracts," manager Arsène Wenger said.

Confirmation that Wilshere has signed a new deal will be welcomed by Arsenal fans as the club attempt to convince Theo Walcott, whose contract expires in the summer, to stay as well. Walcott will have been encouraged by the quintet's decision to sign – especially Wilshere – and Wenger is pleased to have retained a British core within the team.

"The plan is to build a team around a strong basis of young players, in order to get them to develop their talent at the club," Wenger said. "Jack is certainly the best known, the leader of this group – but the other four players are exceptional footballers, and we're very happy that we could conclude their new deals at the same time.

"I'm a strong believer in stability and I believe when you have a core of British players, it's always easier to keep them together and that's what we'll try to achieve going forward."

Wilshere, 20, has been in fine form since returning to action in October after 15 months out with ankle, foot and knee injuries. Ramsey has made 24 appearances for Wales, while the other four are England internationals.

Arsenal climbed to fifth in the Premier League following Monday's 5-2 victory at Reading in a result that has relieved some of the pressure on Wenger. But the Frenchman is still among the favourites to be the next top-flight manager to lose his job.

Arsenal have also confirmed that their Premier League home game with West Ham on Boxing Day has been postponed due to the proposed industrial action on the Tube.

London Underground drivers belonging to Aslef are to stage three strikes in a row over Bank Holiday pay, with the first scheduled for 26 December.

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