Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger halts player contract talks to focus on title race
William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikaël Silvestre are all out of contract in the summer and so are free to speak to other clubs, but there will be no further negotiations with Arsenal until a season-defining sequence of matches is complete. In a clear statement of Wenger's belief that Arsenal can recapture the Premier League should they win their remaining seven matches, he has also already confirmed that Campbell will start against Birmingham despite the risk of him being unavailable against Barcelona four days later. Related ArticlesBirmingham City v Arsenal: match previewArsene Wenger defiant about Arsenal title chancesArsenal to lean on Sol CampbellLoic Remy wants Arsenal moveBendtner doubtful for Birmingham tieSport on televisionWilliam Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen Wenger's first choice centre-back pairing are both unavailable for Saturday's trip to St Andrews, although Vermaelen will return from a one-game domestic suspension to play in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday. "The championship is the most important for me at the moment," said Wenger. "The best way to prepare for Barcelona is to win the game before. It has been 10 months' preparation, fight and work to be where we are in the championship so we want to take advantage of that and win the Birmingham game." The most pressing contract situation relates to Gallas, whose representatives have been talking to Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis for several weeks without reaching a resolution. The main difficulty relates to the length of the contract, with Arsenal unwilling to make an exception to their policy of offering players over the age of 30 more than one year unless there are revised wage demands. Wenger accepts that there is a danger of other clubs now trying to move in, but he believes that Gallas, Campbell and Silvestre are all players with the experience to remain focused. During the run-in to the 2007-8 season, Wenger felt some players lost focus. "In the next two or three weeks we will not deal with any contract because we have games every three days and we will focus on our targets," said Wenger. ''I feel we are winning the battle to keep William but in this domain you have to be open and be ready for anything." Gallas is recovering from a calf injury and was joined back in training on Friday by Robin van Persie, who hopes to gain sufficient match fitness to be available against Wigan on April 18 or Manchester City the following week.
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