Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, having seen his season dramatically unravel, is already making plans for the next campaign but insisted he is not in the market for Spanish hitman David Villa.
The highly-rated Valencia striker, expected to form a devastating partnership with Liverpool’s Fernando Torres at Euro 2008 this summer, has spoken of his admiration for the Gunners.
But Wenger says he is more concerned with keeping the current squad together and feels it is his defence rather than his attack that would be a priority if he is to bolster.
“That’s my first target, to keep the team together,” said the Frenchman. “We want to continue to respect our wages structure because I feel that is very important.”
Wenger, in response to Villa’s comments, added: “He made a big compliment to the team.
“We have many requests from players who want to join. But I feel up front I need to give time to (Theo) Walcott and (Nicklas) Bendtner because they have made big improvement for me this season.
“Theo is coming on so I need to give them a chance or they will not come out.”
Wenger also has to consider Mathieu Flamini’s future and William Gallas’ captaincy.
Flamini, the France midfielder, has been given until the end of the month to decide whether to sign a contract or leave on a free transfer in the summer.
Wenger wants the 24-year-old in his midfield next season but whether he gives Gallas the armband again is another matter after the skipper’s leadership came under scrutiny during Arsenal’s recent collapse.
Gallas, 30, was not in his own half when Birmingham scored a last-gasp penalty at St Andrews in February, then he reacted to the 2-2 draw by lashing out at an advertising board.
He has also been outspoken about Walcott and was recently highlighted by pundits for a lack of communication with his team-mates.
When he conceded a penalty against Manchester United last Sunday and Cristiano Ronaldo scored, Arsenal’s hopes of silverware evaporated.
When asked whether Gallas would be captain next season, Wenger replied: “I cannot answer that question at the moment. I want to analyse the season after the season. At the moment he will be my captain until the end of the season.
“I believe he has learned a lot this year and I can only say that his commitment and desire to do well was exceptional.
“I made that decision and I have to stand up for that decision, I have to protect the team and the individuals as well at the moment.
“They get criticised and maybe we deserve critics at the moment but overall the team has made good progress this year.”
Given his performances this season, Flamini could be an option as skipper if he agrees to a new deal.
“We are getting close to yes or no,” Wenger said. “He says he wants to stay and I believe him. But as long as he has not signed, for me he is free to sign where he wants.”
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