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Wenger ready to reward top Gun Gallas

WHEN William Gallas was stripped of the captaincy after an outspoken attack on his team-mates last season, his days at Arsenal looked numbered. But such has been his professionalism since that Arsene Wenger is ready to offer him a new contract.

The Arsenal manager described Gallas' performances this season as amazing and revealed yesterday that he intends to discuss an extended deal with the centre back's representatives this month.

The France defender's contract expires in the summer and he would like to stay, although negotiations could be complicated by Arsenal's informal policy of offering only one-year deals to outfield players over 30.

Attract

Wenger suggested that he could break his own rule to keep hold of a player who will be 33 in August, however, because Gallas would certainly attract a longer contract from several clubs in France, albeit on reduced wages.

"I have a big respect for what William has done and will meet his agents this month," Wenger said. "Unfortunately, a one-year extension is the rule here for players over 30, except for the manager.

"But for a centre back you can be a bit more open with the situation. I will see. He has the attitude of a very committed guy."

Gallas' three-and-a-half-year stay at Arsenal has been eventful from the outset. He joined the club only after allegedly threatening to score an own goal against Chelsea when his former employers were refusing to sell him in the summer of 2006.

He was a surprise choice to replace Thierry Henry as Arsenal captain a year later, a move that appeared to have backfired when he staged an extraordinary sit-down protest after a 2-2 draw away to Birmingham City in February 2008. His unsuitability for the post was confirmed by him openly criticising team-mates later that year.

Wenger admits that he feared Gallas's future at the club was in jeopardy, but added that the player has since been a dream to manage.

"At one stage I thought he might consider leaving, but the personality clashes are sorted out now and the young players respect him," Wenger said. "It is credit to him.

"He had the right attitude. That means he has maybe found appetite again for the club.

"William has been amazing the whole season. He does what you dream of as a manager -- he does not talk and plays well. He wanted to do well as a captain, but what you respect in these situations is how well he responded when he was not captain anymore. He does the job fantastically well."

Given the complexity of the situation, discussions over Gallas's future could drag on and Wenger is more concerned by a Premier League title race that he believes starts in earnest this evening. Arsenal can move to second by beating Bolton Wanderers at the Emirates Stadium, with Andrey Arshavin and Denilson returning from injury.

Prognosis

Wenger is also looking for a new striker, with Marouane Chamakh, of Bordeaux, Edin Dzeko, of Wolfsburg, and Carlton Cole in his thoughts, but will not make a decision until he discovers the prognosis for Nicklas Bendtner. The Denmark striker returns to the club on Friday, having been treated in his homeland for a groin injury. His recovery date will inform Wenger's transfer activity.

"The real test will be in the next two weeks with the projection on Bendtner," he said. "If he is out for two months, there is no way we can cope.

"We will need someone, absolutely. We look anyway and if we find a good bargain, we will still do it."

© The Times, London


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