Arsene Wenger is in no doubt Andrey Arshavin remains a great player and is "desperate" to keep the Russian at Arsenal.

Arshavin has drawn criticism this season for some below-par performances, and was again bitterly disappointing in the 1-0 Carling Cup defeat at Ipswich on Wednesday night. Reports have suggested the 29-year-old - signed from Zenit St Petersburg in January 2009 - could be set for a £17million move to Juventus.

"We have had no contact," Wenger said. "As soon as a player doesn't play fantastically well, he is criticised. We all know that. I am very happy with Arshavin. I believe he is a great player - he is going through a period where it is more difficult for him at the moment."

He added: "But he works very hard in training - his attitude is fantastic and I am desperate to keep him.

"He played almost every single game since the start of the season and has played for his national team as well. Physically he is a bit less fresh."

Arshavin could be back on the bench for Saturday afternoon's late kick-off at Barclays Premier League bottom club West Ham.

Wenger continued: "After a breather of a few games he will come back stronger than ever because he works very hard in training. As far as I know, I believe he and his wife are happy in London, but what is very important as well is that I am very happy with him."

Wenger also rejected suggestions veteran goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, currently recovering from an ankle problem, was set to join Galatasaray and refused to be drawn on any of his transfer targets.

Arsenal are in the market for a central defender, and have been linked with West Ham's Matthew Upson, who left the Gunners in 2003, as well as Bolton centre-back Gary Cahill, Montpellier's Bosnia and Herzegovina international Emir Spahic and Werder Bremen defender Per Mertesacker.

"The players we have signed recently, especially the defenders, you would never have guessed - not [Thomas] Vermaelen or [Laurent] Koscielny. Let us surprise you if we do something," the Arsenal boss said.

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Topics:
Arsenal
Ipswich Town
Andrey Arshavin
Matthew Upson
Football
Bolton Wanderers
League Cup
Premier League
Manuel Almunia
Gary Cahill