Arsene Wenger has gone on a charm offensive in a desperate effort to keep Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain by insisting it would ‘damage’Arsenal if he left.
The England midfielder has frequently cut a frustrated figure this season and previously stated publicly he would consider hisfuture at the end of the campaign, when he will have only one year remaining on his contract.
After intermittent playing time earlier in the season, he has had more prominence in the side lately and is expected to startagainst Crystal Palace tonight, but it is understood there remains a very real risk that he will seek a new club in the summer,with Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool all monitoring his situation.
Arsenal will make a concerted play to keep him and Wenger has described it as ‘vital’ that the 23-year-old is retained, sixyears on from signing him for £15m from Southampton.
He said: ‘I personally think it is vital that Chamberlain stays at Arsenal. We bought him when he was very young, we have builthim up and I think he has a great mentality.
‘I like his mentality and he has a good football brain. It would be a big damage for us to lose this kind of player.’
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s contract situation is echoed with Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere, who are both entering their final year.Talks with Wilshere will start imminently, with the midfielder wanting assurances on first-team opportunities following his loanat Bournemouth.
Wenger said: ‘We still have a group of young English players but as you said we have to keep them all.
‘We have (Aaron) Ramsey, Chamberlain, Wilshere, Gibbs. All these players we have to make decisions and manage to keep themtogether.’
Part of the approach to appeasing Oxlade-Chamberlain will hinge on his position, with Wenger accepting he would be best used inhis preferred central role rather than on the flanks.
He said: ‘He can penetrate and in midfield that is important. I felt as well sometimes on the flank he is out of the game but inthe middle he is more focused. He needs to be involved in the game.
‘He is very critical of himself and he works on it. He is one of the guys who sometimes is too harsh with his own performance.You can see he is blaming himself on the pitch sometimes when he misses something.’
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