Wenger insists struggling Ljungberg still has major role to play for Gunners

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The Independent Online

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, last night claimed that Freddie Ljungberg still has "a lot to offer" the Gunners.

The Swedish midfielder has been linked with a move away from the Emirates Stadium in recent days - in particular with a transfer window switch to West Ham - after struggling to secure a regular place in Wenger's team this season.

Ljungberg, 29, is currently out of the side with a hamstring injury, but Wenger insists that, when fit, he can still play a major role for the team.

"There has been much speculation about Freddie Ljungberg in the media over the last few days," Wenger told the club's official website. "But given his dedication and contribution to the team's success since joining the club, I feel it is important to state that Freddie is a valuable member of our squad.

"Although I can't predict the future, Freddie's experience and winner's attitude means he still has a lot to offer," Wenger added.

The strength in depth of Arsenal's squad was emphatically demonstrated on Tuesday night when a team of youngsters humbled Liverpool 6-3 at Anfield in the Carling Cup quarter-finals.

Ljungberg has featured in just 10 of Arsenal's 22 Premiership games this term, with competition from the likes of Alexander Hleb and Tomas Rosicky meaning his place is no longer assured when he is fit.

The Sweden captain signed for Arsenal from Halmstads for £3m in September 1998.

Meanwhile, Alan Pardew, the Charlton manager who had a touchline spat with Wenger during his time in charge of West Ham, has called for "strong characters" to help drag Charlton out of the relegation mire.

The Addicks' £1.3m bid for the Sheffield Wednesday defender Madjid Bougherra has been turned down, but a loan deal for the unsettled Seville striker Kepa Blanco could materialise.

The future of leading scorer Darren Bent also remains uncertain, but Pardew said: "I am going to look for strong characters in the team, people who can take responsibility and look to play when things perhaps are not going so well."

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