Following on for their morale-boosting 5-2 win at Reading on Monday, Arsenal have had a further lift from Theo Walcott reopening talks about his new contract while five young British players are set to commit their futures to the club in the next few days.
It is understood that Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson are all on the point of signing new contracts with Arsenal that will keep them at the Emirates for at least the next five years.
The news, which could be officially announced before Arsenal take on Wigan on Saturday, will boost manager Arsène Wenger, who in the last few seasons has seen prized assets such as Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie leave after entering the last year of their deals.
In August it appeared as though Walcott would follow a similar path out of the club when talks about a new £75,000 contract broke down and the striker was warned he could be sold in January. However, negotiations restarted last week and Walcott, who featured in a central striking role at Reading and scored their fifth goal, would appear to be back in favour with his manager.
Arsenal were humiliated last week when they were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by League Two Bradford, a defeat. However, the club line, is different. Wenger said after the Reading game that only if he was judged by headlines could Arsenal be said to be in trouble – in that case it was a “super-crisis”. Looking back at 12 points from their last seven Premier League games, Wenger insisted that the their position was rather steadier than some had suggested. “In the championship our run is not so bad recently,” he said. “This run is not fantastic but not disastrous.”
Thomas Vermaelen, the Arsenal captain, made precisely the same point after the game. Arsenal, it should not be forgotten, are only two points behind Tottenham and Chelsea.
“In the league, it is not going that badly,” said Vermaelen, another voice of cool assessment amid the hysteria that often surrounds Arsenal.
“What we did in Bradford was a big disappointment because we want to win those games as well. But in the Premier League, it is all really close for a Champions League spot and we are chasing the top four.”
In recent years Arsenal have allowed bad luck to ruin their confidence and sabotage their seasons. It happened after drawing with Birmingham City in 2008 and after losing to the same side in the Carling Cup final in 2011. Vermaelen is desperate that this capacity for self-destruction should not come out again. “After Bradford we were focused straight away and we know in England that we have so many games that we can make it up again straight away. You can’t stand still too long with a defeat like that – you just learn from it and move on.”
Vermaelen wants Walcott to stay but has no idea whether he will sign a new contract or not. “Of course we want him to stay but that is something that is going on between the player and the club,” said the Belgian.
“I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes – we don’t talk about it. Of course, Theo has been invaluable for us as well when he played this year. He has been a dangerous player for us and I hope he decides to stay this year.”
According to Vermaelen, it is a private issue and there is not much discussion between Walcott and his team-mates. “Not really because that is going on in football all the time,” he added. “It’s the job of the board and the club what they are going to do with it so we can’t do anything about it.”