Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger insists Francis Coquelin form shows club doesn't need to spend big

The Gunners are linked with Raheem Sterling and Petr Cech

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Arsene Wenger has told Arsenal fans that the form of Francis Coquelin proves that marquee signings are not necessary to improve the Gunners' squad.

The manager said that while he intends to maintain and improve the club's "core", if Coquelin had cost £40m in the January transfer window then the club would not be facing criticism over a lack of movement in the transfer market.

The 24-year-old defensive midfielder has been one the Gunners' standout performers after Wenger recalled him from a loan spell at Charlton, drawing plaudits since his controlling display in Arsenal's 2-0 victory at Manchester City in January.

Wenger used Coquelin's fine form to make a wider point about valuation in the transfer market. "The world has changed," the manager said. "The appreciation today of the quality of a player is just down with the money you spend.

"If we had bought Coquelin at Christmas for £40m, everyone would say 'what a signing'. I am sorry he didn't cost any money, he is still a good player."

During his time at Arsenal Wenger has faced criticism over the club's transfer policy and reluctance to spend big, although the signings of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez for £42.5m and £35m respectively in the last two summer windows hinted at a shift in strategy.

Wenger speaks to Coquelin

Now the club is linked with Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech and James Milner, whose contract with Manchester City expires at the end of the season.

Wenger refused to comment on specific targets, and insisted that his priority remains keeping the players currently at his disposal. "We have depth in the squad, and the rest will be decided in the summer," he said. "We need to keep our players.

"I respect everybody's opinion, but at the end of the day it is important we keep the core of the team together."

Arsenal currently sit third in the Premier League, with Champions League qualification already secure. A victory in tonight's clash with Sunderland at the Emirates would keep their slim hopes of second-place alive.

Additional reporting by PA