Arsene Wenger met the assembled media this morning with tomorrow’s match against London rivals Chelsea on the agenda. The two clubs could play a training game behind closed doors and it would still be a competitive match, but this weekend’s clash has added significance given the points Chelsea have dropped in their previous two games. Wenger also celebrates the 20th anniversary of his appointment as Arsenal manager this week, and he’ll be hoping for a more celebratory occasion than when he lost 6-0 at Stamford Bridge in his 1,000th game as boss in 2014. As is normally the case, the early questions focused on the team news before the game, and Wenger had the following to say:
“We have no new injuries, Aaron Ramsey is still struggling with his hamstring and will be not available for Basel (on Wednesday in the Champions League).
“He has a small grade one (tear) hamstring but he is not completely free to push at the moment and he has a little bit of pain. He is in the last days of his rehabilitation.”
Olivier Giroud is in line to return after a minor toe injury kept him out of last week’s trip to Hull (though some suggested his absence was punishment for his petulant behaviour in Paris). However, Ramsey’s continued absence is concerning though it is worth noting that this injury will keep him out of the next international break. There have been words between Chris Coleman and Wenger in the past, and it seems Ramsey might be in the middle of a political tug of war which is unfortunate for him.
Elsewhere, another topic of conversation in this morning’s press conference was the revelations in Rob Beasley’s new book, Jose Mourinho: Up Close and Personal in which his distaste for Wenger is laid bare. After the Frenchman expressed surprise at Chelsea selling Juan Mata to Manchester United in a January transfer window. The book has been serialised in the Daily Mail today and one excerpt reads:
“’When Mr Wenger criticises CFC and Man United over the deal with Mata…I will find him one day outside a football pitch and I will break his face.”
It is probably no coincidence that this has been placed in a national newspaper in the very week that Wenger is being showered with praise and commentary pieces due to his 20th anniversary. Wherever you stand on the two managers or which team you happen to support, most right thinking fans would expect that this crosses the boundaries and fails to meet minimum level of respect you would hope for.
The peculiar thing is that Mourinho has a stranglehold on Wenger on the pitch, so quite why he feels the need to attack him off the field is unclear. Results might be to the contrary, but a manager like Mourinho wouldn’t bother with all this needle with a manager he didn’t rate as a threat. Alternatively, there may be a hint of jealousy at work here given the length of time Wenger has managed to stay at a top club and the universal respect he gets from most of Fleet Street.
Finally, former Arsenal striker Alan Smith has said that new signing Lucas Perez gives Wenger a ‘new attacking option’. Smith, who scored the Gunners’ winning goal in the 1994 Cup Winners’ Cup Final against Parma said:
“He’s a strong boy, you saw that with the solo goal he scored. He won’t get bullied and he’s got a bit of pace about him.
“It’s a contrast to what they had already and that’s what they needed. He might be a late developer but he’s a good option for Arsene Wenger.”
Perez got off the mark for Arsenal against Nottingham Forest with a goal from the spot and an impressive one against one goal. He has been brought in to give Arsenal another mobile forward, and with Alexis Sanchez being deployed as a ‘false nine’ it seems Wenger is evolving the team on from dependency on Olivier Giroud.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal