Football: Arsenal extend Per Mertesacker's contract as defender nears return

Arsenal have triggered an option to extend Per Mertesacker's contract.
Arsenal have triggered an option to extend Per Mertesacker's contract. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal have triggered an option to extend Per Mertesacker's contract despite the centre back not playing a single game for the club so far this season due to a knee problem, manager Arsene Wenger said on Thursday.

The 32-year-old former German international underwent surgery after picking up the injury in a pre-season friendly in July.

"He's back in training, not with the squad, but he's two weeks away now," Wenger told a news conference on Thursday. "He has an option that we have taken. There was no negotiation, just an option that we have taken."

Arsenal, who climbed above Manchester City into fourth place in the Premier League table after beating Swansea City 4-0 last weekend, host 10th-placed Burnley on Sunday.

Wenger's team are boosted by the return of a trio of absentees. Defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin and full backs Hector Bellerin and Kieran Gibbs are all back training with the squad, although Theo Walcott is still out.

Wenger also offered positive news on striker Olivier Giroud, who opened the scoring against Swansea, but limped off an hour into the game.

"Giroud is back in training since yesterday," he said. "With the number of games we have it's important that we have all our experienced players back and that everybody is focused to do well.

"We're going through a moment of truth now, January until May is five months to go. You want ideally all your players with big experience back in your squad."

With striker Danny Welbeck also back in the team after a long-term injury, Wenger said he did not expect to seek reinforcements in January, and ruled out a move for unsettled West Ham United creative midfielder Dimitri Payet.

Payet has been linked with a move back to his former club Marseille, and Wenger said he was not interested in signing the France international.

"I expect it to be a very quiet period," he added. "We are very strong. We have many, many players who can come in. I rate Payet but I don't need Payet because we have so many creative players. We have many players who can play in this position."