Arséne Wenger said he will not be rushing into the January sales with an open cheque-book as he revealed the club had begun moves to secure Sol Campbell's future at Highbury for the rest of his career.
Wenger has already tied down Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires to long contract extensions and is now hoping to gain the signature of another key member of his squad. Campbell, 29, already has two-and-a-half years left on the five-year deal that took him from Tottenham in the summer of 2001. However, Arsenal are offering the centre-back a three-year extension until 2009.
"It is true that we are talking to Sol about a new contract," Wenger said. "Those talks are at a very early stage but I am optimistic. He has been a fantastic signing for us and I hope he will stay even longer than his present deal."
Sylvain Wiltord and Nwankwo Kanu are out of contract at the end of this season, and both are able to start talking to overseas clubs about Bosman free transfers from the start of next month.
Campbell took a few months to find his feet at Arsenal, but has progressed steadily and is now the backbone of the Gunners' defence. The centre-back, who won the domestic double in 2002 as well as the FA Cup last season, would no doubt be looking for a wage rise even though his current salary is rumoured to be about £100,000 a week due to a large signing-on fee after his Bosman free transfer. That includes bonus and loyalty payments, but the priority for Wenger is to ensure that the nucleus of his side remains together.
Whether he now signs any further players to strengthen his squad during the January transfer window remains to be seen. Wenger has previously indicated that he does have money to spend, although not necessarily the £10m recently quoted until at least the future of the new stadium project has been rubber-stamped.
His priorities would appear to include a centre-back and a striker. He is also short of cover at full-back, but has been impressed with the development of several younger players this season.
These include the striker Jérémie Aliadière and the left-back Gael Clichy, while Jermaine Pennant has also been making progress on loan at Leeds. "I am happy with the squad that I have got," Wenger insisted. "At the moment I am not in the market at all. We have some great young players coming through and some that people haven't even seen yet."
Not that the Arsenal manager ever publicly tells the full story about his transfer market intentions, although he did reveal earlier this month that he was unlikely to be raiding a fellow Premiership club.
Wenger said that "domestically I don't think we could find what we need at the moment", but then conceded he would "try and see if something interesting develops" in the overall situation. He added: "If we get a player in, it's better that he can play in Europe rather than not. But I don't make an obligation out of signing someone."
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