Football

Wenger won’t sell the Ox

Arsenal boss believes injury-prone forward is finally realising his potential

epl
 EVERTON ARSENAL

Arsene Wenger insists he will not waste five years developing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain just to let the England star leave Arsenal.

It has been reported that the club are yet to open talks over a new contract with the 23-year-old, who has 18 months to run on his current deal at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal are locked in negotiations to extend the deals for Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Oezil who have similar terms remaining on their existing deals, but Wenger is adamant Oxlade-Chamberlain is integral to his plans as well.

"I want Oxlade-Chamberlain to stay at the club," said Wenger.

"I bought him at a very young age, he's developing well.

"This season, he's making steps, moving forward.

"When you've invested so much time and work in a player, and the player loves it here and is integrated in the qualities we want him to have... Overall, I want him to stay."

Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Arsenal from Southampton in 2011 and has won 24 England caps since his 2012 international debut.

"I believe that first Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's career, like Theo Walcott's career, has been stopped many times by injuries," said Wenger.

"He has had many, many setbacks and this is the first season where he's had a consistency of presence.

"They play in positions where maybe the physical demands are higher than any other positions.

"On the flanks today, you need to come up and down, you need to defend as well as being dangerous going forward.

CONTRACT TALK

"So you need to find the level of a good balance and it demands a little bit of experience.

"Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is much more efficient going forward now, he can provide, he provided a good final ball for Oezil on Saturday.

"And he can score goals himself and that's what you want from him.

"We are a squad of 25 people. It's the position where the physical demands are the most important.

"That's subject to more changes than other positions, changes are more frequent and more normal."

Sanchez and Oezil top a nucleus of senior Gunners stars whose contracts are quickly running down while a host of suitors queue up for their services.

Wenger refused to add any update on the influential pair's situation yesterday and also put off discussions on his own long-term future.

His contract expires again in the summer, but the veteran French boss has insisted he has "no energy, no time" to consider his own situation.

Asked about the futures of Sanchez and Oezil, Wenger replied: "What my head and my heart are telling me (is), 'Don't talk about it any more'."

And when pressed on whether his own future links into any uncertainty over a number of his squad's contract discussions, Wenger added: "Again, my head and my heart tell me not to talk about that, because we are all focused on targets for this season and we have no energy (and) no time to think about the rest.

"I've told you many times, I want to do as well as I can for this club for as long as I'm here."

Arsenal will face Everton tomorrow morning (Singapore time) at Goodison Park, with Gabriel likely to slot in at centre back to replace Shkodran Mustafi, who will be missing for three weeks with hamstring trouble. - PA SPORT

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