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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Wenger rules out move for Ba, not Henry

Arsene Wenger on Friday ruled out a move for Newcastle striker Demba Ba, but appeared to backtrack on claims he would not re-sign Thierry Henry for a third time.

Alan Pardew's admission that he would let Ba leave Newcastle if he did not remove the £7.5million release clause in his contract sparked rumors that Arsenal would make a bid for the striker.

Wenger has struggled to fill the void left by Robin van Persie, and with 11 goals so far this season, Ba would seem an ideal fit but the Frenchman denied he was interested in signing the 27-year-old.

"I like Demba Ba, yes," the Arsenal manager said ahead of his team's match against Newcastle on Saturday.

"I don't think (this) is the right place to speak about that, because he plays against us tomorrow," he said. "I wouldn't like to put Newcastle or us or him in an uncomfortable position. If you ask me, 'Do we sign Demba Ba?' I say no."

With Gervinho absent for the African Nations Cup next month, Wenger will be short of a forward, and Henry would be a possible short-term replacement.

Earlier this week the Gunners boss played down reports linking him with a second loan move for Arsenal's record goalscorer during the offseason in Major League Soccer, where he plays for the New York Red Bulls.

But Wenger on Friday denied he had shut the door completely on a temporary move for the 35-year-old, who scored twice -- both game-winners -- in seven games during a loan spell at the Emirates Stadium last term.

"I've not lost interest in him," said Wenger, who has allowed Henry to train with Arsenal for the last month.

"I've not completely (ruled it out). But I haven't spoken about it with him at all," he said. "He's still coming today to practice with us. We are very close (personally), but at the moment I think he has had a second spell at the club that was very successful. You have to be cautious that it's not one time too many."

Henry scored a club-record 226 goals with Arsenal from 1999-2007.

Rather than concentrate on signing new strikers, Wenger's top priority remains keeping one of his current crop -- Theo Walcott -- at Arsenal.

Walcott turned down a new contract last summer and will be free to leave the Emirates at the end of the season should he not extend his deal.

Wenger has played the England international in his preferred striker position for the last two games, perhaps in a bid to help persuade him to stay, and the Gunners boss remains hopeful he will not lose the player in the summer.

"Yes (talks are ongoing) and yes (I remain optimistic he will sign)," Wenger said.

Information from Press Association Sport and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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