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Wilshere fires English brigade to Gunners extention

LONDON, England, December 20- Arsenal were given a major fillip on Wednesday when they announced that English midfielder Jack Wilshere and four other players have agreed new long-term contracts with the club.

Wilshere joins fellow England internationals Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson and Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey in committing his future to the Emirates Stadium.

“We are delighted that these five young players have all signed new long-term contracts,” manager Arsene 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.

“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.

“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 did not reveal details of the lengths of the five players’ new contracts.

Wenger will now hope to persuade another England international, winger Theo Walcott, to commit himself to the club, with talks over a new contract for the former Southampton player currently at an impasse.

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The 23-year-old, whose contract expires at the end of the current season, reportedly wants a higher salary and assurances that he will be given more opportunities to play as a striker.

Arsenal have endured an arduous season, notably being eliminated from the League Cup by fourth-tier Bradford City last week.

However, their 5-2 victory at Reading on Monday took them up to fifth place in the Premier League and they are also in the hat for Thursday’s Champions League last 16 draw.

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