What we have we hold, says Wenger

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger maintains that his "first target of the summer" will be ensuring that key players such as Cesc Fabregas, Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini stay at Arsenal, before looking to add some experience to his squad.

The Gunners have faltered over the last two months, as both their Premier League and Champions League hopes ended in disappointment. Attention has now turned to what is required to let Arsenal stay the course next season with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Wenger, though, believes his young squad do not need major surgery, but concedes they do lack the composure of experience. He accepts the test case of the Scottish footballer Andy Webster, which under European law allows players to buy out their contracts, has changed the landscape in terms of team planning.

"There is money there [for transfers], but not as much as I read in the newspapers, because that is not true," Wenger said. "However, with my financial package, the first thing I have to make sure is we keep the players we have at the moment. That is what people forget.

"The new rules put you under threat to lose your best players because after three years any player can walk out and after two any player over 28. So the rules and the structure of the wages bill is always under threat.

"My first target of the summer is to make sure what we have here stays here, and after, if there is still money available, to buy players. It is not as simple as it looks when you read there is so much money available to buy players – that transfer budget also includes the improvement of the wages."

Hleb has been one of Arsenal's most consistent performers and has been linked with a big-money move this summer, with Internazionale said to be keeping tabs on the situation.

However, the 26-year-old will get no further chances to impress this season after an FA sanction, which was dished out following a review of television evidence, ruled him out of the games with Derby, Everton and finally Sunderland after Hleb was involved in an off-the-ball clash with the Reading captain Graeme Murty at the Emirates Stadium last Saturday.

The Italian club Juventus have made no secret of their interest in Flamini, who is technically free to talk to other clubs until any new deal is signed with the Gunners – which their chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, revealed had caused the club "push the boat out".

Wenger has been linked with a number of potential transfer targets, including Palermo's Brazilian striker Amauri, Lyons' £12m-rated winger Hatem Ben Arfa and the Valencia forward David Villa.

While he conceded that he does have a "wishlist", the Frenchman said: "Who we will buy in the summer is not decided yet, but I have players in mind. I believe at some stage you need to strengthen the team, but changing the team means kicking some players out and replacing them. That is not the feeling I have. I feel this team has been absolutely tremendous."

Wenger maintains his men are making progress. He said: "In the last season, we have heard enough that we have not won any trophies. Then again you have to take some distance with that. What is better? To have won the Carling Cup or to have gone in the Champions League final in 2006?

"We know it is not enough and we want to do more. But I believe not to recognise the merit of this team would be a professional mistake and I would not stand for that. This team is tremendous and has a tremendous future. Maybe we have to add a bit of experience to all that – but we have done the main job."