England midfielder Jack Wilshere was one of five Arsenal players to agree new long-term contracts with the club today.
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. Liverpool and Manchester City are reported to be monitoring Walcott’s situation with the England winger holding out for higher wages and a change in position to striker. 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. Gibbs, Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey and Wilshere represent a core of the squad and it’s an extension for a long period for all of them.
“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, who he has also captained, while the other four are England internationals.
Arsenal climbed to fifth in the Premier League following Monday’s 5-2 victory at Reading – two points adrift of fourth-place Tottenham– 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, with compatriot and former Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli amazed his position is questioned.
“It’s totally impossible for me to understand. He has been carrying that club on his shoulders for 16 years, especially since [former vice-chairman] David Dein left,” Comolli said. “I’m even amazed that people ask the question about his future. When people say there is money but he doesn’t spend it. Well that doesn’t make sense to me. At the AGM, the directors said ‘in two years we will be able to compete with anyone in the world’ – if they had the money they would be able to compete now.
“What he has done and what he still does, to keep the club at that level, is amazing.”
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 are to stage three strikes in a row over Bank Holiday pay, with the first scheduled for 26 December. The move by members of the union Aslef threatens travel chaos in the capital and the Gunners have decided to call off the game at Emirates Stadium, with both clubs’ fans in mind.
“The paramount concern was always the duty of care towards the Arsenal supporters, West Ham United supporters, matchday employees and workers and indeed everyone who was planning to attend the game on Boxing Day,” said an Arsenal statement.
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