Arsene Wenger has confirmed an interest in Lille's Belgian winger Eden Hazard.
The Arsenal manager was asked yesterday about Hazard's comments that playing for the Gunners would be a "dream" and responded that he hoped to be able to realise Hazard's ambition.
When later pressed on his interest in Hazard, Wenger made clear that due to a surfeit of forwards there would be no move until this summer at the earliest. "We have 17 strikers," he explained. "In the offensive department, we have many players. If I give Carlos Vela and Jay [Emmanuel-]Thomas out [on loan], it is because we have what it takes. At the end of the season we'll have a look at the situation but at the moment it's completely ruled out."
Hazard, who turned 20 yesterday, has 17 international caps for Belgium and has been voted as Ligue 1's best young player for the last two seasons. He is an attacking midfielder with a style reminiscent of Arsenal's own Samir Nasri, himself signed from the French league at the age of 20 three years ago.
Arsenal face Leeds United in the third round of the FA Cup today and Wenger hopes to welcome Aaron Ramsey back into the squad. He could not guarantee that the Welsh midfielder would make his first Arsenal start since February, but confirmed that he would return to the first team after a loan spell at Nottingham Forest, where he completed only one 90-minute match but made five appearances.
"He needs to get all of his movement and pace back – he is not completely there yet," said Wenger. "He can only get it if he continues to practice. I still give him one or two months to be completely back." He described Ramsey's mental state as "reassuring", and added: "He's not scared – you never know how that acts on players' minds, but he's not scared."
Wenger also confirmed that Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere and Nasri would be among players absent from the team at the Emirates Stadium today, while he has not decided yet whether Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will start.