Arsenal press conference analysis: Wenger talks transfers, Watford and Champions League
Arsene Wenger’s post-match press conference at Leicester on Saturday was an acidic affair, with the Arsenal boss aggrieved at the media’s obsession with the transfer market. However, with Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez on the verge of joining Arsenal, today’s press conference was a far more relaxed affair. Wenger refused to mention either player by name, but said he was ‘99% sure’ Arsenal would sign a player which is as close to an admission as you are going to get.
Elsewhere, he had some interesting words to say on the transfer window as a whole. Though Wenger made his name on his eye for talent and shrewd recruitment, you get the sense that he finds the window a bit of a chore. Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte have echoed that sentiment recently; they want to strengthen their squads but take issue with the amount of ‘analysis’ the window gets. Wenger said:
“It was a strange transfer market. I expected it to be easier than ever but it was more difficult than ever. Not a lot has happened. It looks like when you meet other clubs and you have an English passport, you hit these [big] prices which are very difficult to understand compared to the quality of the players.”
The statement ‘not a lot has happened’ is a subjective one, and given the sums of money spent by Manchester City and Manchester United many will dispute this analysis. Perhaps Wenger is talking specifically about the striker market, in which Arsenal have been shopping for some time. It may also be a comment on the lack of activity from Europe’s top clubs. Arsenal secured Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil by waiting for Barcelona and Real Madrid to move for Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale, but neither of those clubs has boosted their forward lines. Why would they, given that they possess the two best front threes in the world? This lack of movement at the elite level of the market is probably why Wenger has ended up signing Lucas Perez.
Wenger also confirmed that Calum Chambers could go out on loan once Mustafi’s transfer is complete. Rather like new arrival Rob Holding, Chambers had an impressive first few games for Arsenal at the start of the 2014/15 season but doesn’t seem to have the full trust of his manager. He was given a rough ride by Jefferson Montero at Swansea in a 2-1 defeat in November 2014, and that day was something of a turning point. Chambers doesn’t quite have the agility and pace to be a top class full back; his future lies in the middle. Wenger insists he still has a long term future at Arsenal, but he needs regular football to rebuild his confidence.
Ahead of Saturday’s game at Vicarage Road against Watford, Wenger was keen to stress the importance of dealing with Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. Arsenal recorded 3-0 and 4-0 wins over Watford in the league last season, but the Hornets dumped Arsenal out of the FA Cup with a win at the Emirates. Wenger said:
“They were very efficient last year with the two strikers up front together, Ighalo and Deeney.
“One of the keys for us will be to keep them quiet. I rate Deeney because he’s a player who has technical quality first of all, but he’s also a fighter. To find a player who combines these two things is not easy.”
Arsenal put in a secure defensive performance against Leicester last week, but need to sharpen up at the top end of the pitch to get their season up and running. Wenger said he was yet to make a decision on starting Ozil, but that the German playmaker was close to full fitness Furthermore, the Arsenal manager was excited about Arsenal’s Champions League prospects after Thursday’s draw put them in Group A alongside PSG, Basel and Ludogorets:
“Maybe Paris Saint-Germain is the favourite, but we want to qualify of course and if possible finish first in the group. We start in Paris, so that will be a very interesting test. At the moment, we don’t know a lot about Ludogorets and Basel, if you look at their record against English teams you become cautious. They’ve done extremely well against Chelsea, against Manchester United, and I believe we have to be on our toes and prepare very well.”
Arsenal should qualify from this group quite comfortably, but face stiff competition from PSG when it comes to topping the group. Arsenal to travel to Paris for their opening game, which could have a big impact on the final standings. The Gunners have been handed some punishing draws in the last-16 after second placed finishes.
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