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Arsenal locks up five players to new deals

Associated Press

12/19/2012 10:26:57 AM

LONDON -- Arsenal has secured the futures of five key players, with Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey, and Carl Jenkinson signing new deals.

Arsenal has lost a string of top talent in recent years, including Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas.

But Wednesday's announcement of new long-term contracts for five players comes after Arsenal rose to fifth in the English Premier League by beating Reading 5-2 on Monday following its worst start to a season since Arsene Wenger took charge in 1996.

"We are delighted that these five young players have all signed new long-term contracts," Wenger said. "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.

"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."

The 20-year-old Wilshere, one of England's most exciting young midfield prospects, and the 23-year-old defender Gibbs rose through Arsenal's youth ranks.

Ramsey, the 21-year-old Wales midfielder, has been with Arsenal since 2008.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, a 19-year-old winger, joined Arsenal from Southampton in 2011 when the 20-year-old defender Jenkinson arrived from Charlton.

"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," Wenger said.

But Arsenal is yet to resolve its drawn-out contract stand-off with Theo Walcott, whose contract expires at the end of the season.