Football: Young stars pen long-term Arsenal deals

Jack Wilshere in action for Arsenal against West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium in London earlier this month. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Jack Wilshere in action for Arsenal against West Bromwich Albion at Emirates Stadium in London earlier this month. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
England's Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are among five young internationals to have pledged their long-term futures to Arsenal, the Premier League club says.

Midfielders Wilshere, 20, and 19-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain, plus Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey (21) and England defenders Kieran Gibbs (23) and Carl Jenkinson (20) have all committed themselves to Arsenal.

"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," manager Arsene Wenger told the club's website (www.arsenal.com).

"We are delighted that these five young players have all signed new long-term contracts," added the Frenchman.

No details on the lengths of the contracts were given though Wenger was keen to impress that the nurturing of home-grown talent was one of the club's main objectives.

"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."

Arsenal have not won a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup and a host of big names have left the London club since, including Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas who moved to Barcelona and talismanic striker Robin van Persie who joined Manchester United.

Wenger, criticised this season with his side fifth in the Premier League 15 points behind leaders United and knocked out of the League Cup by fourth tier Bradford City, has often put his faith in young players since his tenure began in 1996.

"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," said the 63-year-old.

Of the five players, Ramsey is the most-capped international with 25 appearances including several as Wales captain.

Wilshere has won six caps, though he missed 17 months through injury before returning to the team in October while Oxlade-Chamberlain has won nine England caps since his debut in May.

Defenders Gibbs (two caps) and Jenkinson (one) are the least experienced but Wenger said they were all of equal worth to Arsenal and the club's future.

"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," he said.