New Arsenal Contract For Walcott; Is Van Persie Next To Sign?

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With the chance for trophies at Arsenal gone for another season and the club’s place in the Premiership standings basically finalized at fourth — even with the slight chance to overtake Chelsea for third spot in these final weeks — news and conversation about the club and among its supporters has already begun to turn to off-season transfer targets and player personnel for the 2009-10 campaign.

Discussions among supporters and online forums have begun the banter about which stars throughout Europe should make their way to the Emirates to assist with the Gunners’ attempts at silverware for next season. But a topic just as interesting and vital to Arsenal’s success will focus on which current players will or should remain with the club for the near future.

And it does seem that manager Arsene Wenger and club executives are intent on retaining talented personnel at the club, considering a couple of announcements yesterday. The club’s official web site released news of a new contract for Theo Walcott on Friday, while Wenger also made a point in his weekly pre-match press conference to discuss the importance of renewing the contract for striker Robin van Persie.

“Why should we not (hold on to our best players)?” asked the Frenchman when responding to a reporter’s question. “I am hoping Robin will sign a new deal and I am trying very hard to get him to sign.

“I want Robin on board. He is a very important player in the squad and on the pitch he is a very efficient player,” added Wenger. “We want him to stay because we gave him a chance when he was in a very bad position at Feyenoord. I think he has developed well here and I don’t see a reason for him to go and he loves the club.”

With van Persie in talks recently with club officials regarding terms of a contract, Wenger hopes the Dutchman follows in Walcott’s footsteps to sign before season’s end.

The young English winger/forward, who only turned 20 in March and has notched 14 goals in 103 appearances with Arsenal, has signed a new long-term contract with the club. While a shoulder injury sidelined him for part of this season, Walcott has certainly gained in confidence and effectiveness of the pitch during this term.

“We are absolutely delighted that Theo has committed his long-term future to Arsenal Football Club,” said Wenger. “Theo is an intelligent player with amazing ability and speed, and has developed extremely well this season. At still only 20 years of age, Theo has huge potential for the forthcoming years and we are all looking forward to see him grow even more in an Arsenal shirt.”

Within the official release on arsenal.com, Walcott stated: “I’m absolutely delighted to have signed a new long term contract. I’m so happy here and just want to say thanks to everyone who has helped me get to this point in my career. Together with the belief of my teammates, the boss and everyone on the staff, everyone has got behind me here at Arsenal which is brilliant.

“It’s fantastic to work with the best manager in the world and play at Emirates Stadium, which is an unbelievable place to play in. I just want to continue playing my football at this club and look forward to many successful seasons ahead.”

The young winger also addressed the importance of continuity of talent remaining at the club. “Yes, hopefully the likes of me and Robin and everyone else, hopefully if they get sorted out it shows the belief I’ve got in this team because this team can go very far. Every time I have a warm down I look around the team and see there are some really good players here and I want to be part of it and hopefully we can be right up there with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool and have a great challenge for it next year.”

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