Arsene Wenger has named the group of players he believes that Arsenal 'have to' sign to new contract extensions, insisting that his British core of Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs was important to the club's future.
The Gunners boss focussed particularly on the future of Oxlade-Chamberlain when speaking ahead of Monday night's crunch clash with Crystal Palace, revealing his plans for the former Southampton youth star.
Wenger said: “I personally think it’s vital that Chamberlain stays at Arsenal. We bought him when he was very young and built him up. He has a great mentality and a good football brain and it would be big damage for us to lose this kind of player.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain's contract will have just 12 months left on it at the end of the season - as will those of Ramsey, Gibbs and Wilshere - leaving them free to talk to other clubs come January, but Wenger insisted that all four would be tied down to new deals before that could happen, adding: “It will be done this year.
“We have to keep them all. Ramsey, Chamberlain, Wilshere, Gibbs. All these players we have to make decisions and manage to keep them together."
Gunners Winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Gives Insight Into How the Arsenal Dressing Room Works https://t.co/Gk66wz93mU— ArsenalPro (@ArsenalPro) March 22, 2017
The Frenchman admitted that he plans to utilise Oxlade-Chamberlain through the middle more often going forward, saying: “That’s always what I’ve had in mind. I’ve played him there a few years ago and I think he did well.
"He’s offensive and you can feel as well that he’s a guy who can get out of pressure because of his dribbling skill. And he has penetrating skills and in midfield that is important. I find as well that sometimes on the flank he is out of the way. In the middle he’s more focused, he needs to be involved in the game.”
However, he conceded that the England international still needed to improve on his defensive work, adding: “Because he has not enough experience in that position. He’s a player who likes to take the ball and go at people. He can lose balls but defensively he is strong in the challenge. He has that kind of robustness to deal with the body-to-body that is very important in the Premier League.”
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