Five sign new deals at Arsenal as attention turns to Walcott
ENGLAND midfielder Jack Wilshere is one of five Arsenal players to have agreed new long-term contracts with the club.
Wilshere has committed his future to Emirates Stadium alongside fellow internationals Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Ramsey.
"We are delighted that these five young players have all signed new long-term contracts," manager Arsene Wenger said.
Confirmation that Wilshere has signed a new deal will be welcomed by Arsenal as they attempt to convince Theo Walcott, whose contract expires in the summer, to also stay.
Liverpool and Manchester City are reported to be monitoring Walcott's situation with the England winger holding out for higher wages and a change in position to striker.
Walcott will have been encouraged by the quintet's decision to sign - especially Wilshere - and Wenger is pleased to have retained a British core within the team.
"The plan is to build a team around a strong basis of young players, in order to get them to develop their talent at the club," Wenger said.
"Jack is certainly the best known, the leader of this group - but the other four players are exceptional footballers, and we're very happy that we could conclude their new deals at the same time.
"Gibbs, Jenkinson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey and Wilshere represent a core of the squad and it's an extension for a long period for all of them.
"I'm a strong believer in stability and I believe when you have a core of British players, it's always easier to keep them together and that's what we'll try to achieve going forward."
Wilshere, 20, has been in fine form since returning to action in October after 15 months out with ankle, foot and knee injuries.
Ramsey has made 24 appearances for Wales, who he also captained, while the other four are England internationals.
Arsenal climbed to fifth in the Barclays Premier League following Monday's 5-2 victory at Reading - two points adrift of fourth-place Tottenham - in a result that has relieved some of the pressure on Wenger.
But the Frenchman is still among the favourites to be the next top flight manager to lose his job, with compatriot and former Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli amazed his position is questioned.
"It's totally impossible for me understand. He has been carrying that club on his shoulders for 16 years, especially since David Dein left," Comolli told talkSPORT.
"I'm even amazed that people ask the question about his future. When people say there is money but he doesn't spend it. Well that doesn't make sense to me.
"At the AGM the directors said 'in two years we will be able to compete with anyone in the world' - if they had the money they would be able to compete now.
"What he has done and what he still does, to keep the club at that level, is amazing."
Arsenal today confirmed their Premier League clash with West Ham on Boxing Day has been postponed due to the proposed industrial action on the tube.
London Underground drivers are to stage three strikes in a row over Bank Holiday pay, with the first scheduled for December 26.
The move by members of the union Aslef threatens travel chaos in the capital and the Gunners have decided to call off the clash at Emirates Stadium, with both clubs' fans in mind.
"As a result of Monday's strike ballot and the proposed industrial action on London Underground on Boxing Day, Arsenal's Premier League match against West Ham United at Emirates Stadium, originally planned for Wednesday, December 26, has been postponed," said a statement on the club's official website.
"This decision has been made now, due to the preparation period needed to safely operate Emirates Stadium by all the relevant agencies.
"The paramount concern was always the duty of care towards the Arsenal supporters, West Ham United supporters, matchday employees and workers and indeed everyone who was planning to attend the game on Boxing Day."