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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Wenger plays down speculation over duo

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is refusing to be drawn on speculation that he is preparing to sign Barcelona striker David Villa and tentatively ruled out a move for Newcastle striker Demba Ba.

Demba Ba scored a consolation for Newcastle against Swansea
Demba Ba is being tracked by a host of clubs

Wenger admitted he was a big fan of Ba, who is tipped to leave the Tyneside club for a cut price fee when the transfer window opens next Tuesday, but effectively ruled out a January move for the Senegal international.

“I like Demba Ba, yes,” he said. “I don’t think it is the right place to speak about that as he plays against us tomorrow. Do we sign Demba Ba? I say no.”

When questioned on a move for Spain striker Villa, he was less definitive. “Any interest we have in any players has to be kept secret at the moment,” he stated.

“I cannot come out with any names. If we can add one or two exceptional players, we will do it. What we do not want to do is add players just because people put us under pressure to buy players. If we find a player who will give us something special, we will do it, but that in January will not be easy.”

Reports suggest Wenger has been offered Villa for around £16 million, but that would appear to be an inflated price tag for a 31-year-old who has suffered with injury problems in the last 18 months, so a loan deal may be an option the Arsenal boss will pursue next month.

Wenger confirmed Thierry Henry is still training with his Arsenal first-team, but he seems to be cooling on the prospect of offering the Gunners legend a chance to seal another loan move from New York Red Bulls next month.

“I’ve not lost interest in him,” he added. “He had a second spell at the club and it was very successful, but we have to be cautious that it is not one time too many."

The Arsenal boss went on to claim his side will need to collect 70 points to retain their position in the top four of the Premier League, as he suggested the competition for the Champions League places is hotter than ever.

“We are behind our schedule and we have to make up the points we miss at the moment,” he added. “We have played many away games and now we have a good home run until the end of the season.

"Our team has grown together because we rebuilt the team at the start of the season. Overall what is important for us is to improve the quality of our displays and focus just on that.”

Meanwhile, Wenger confirmed talks with contract rebel Theo Walcott over a new deal were ongoing, as he again stated his hope that the England forward would remain at Arsenal.

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