Arsenal: Wenger warning; Ozil and Sanchez deals depend on this factor; Juventus in for Cazorla
Arsenal host Bulgarian champions Ludogorets tonight in their third Champions League group game, which is a presentable chance to strengthen their hold on this group. A late Alexis Sanchez goal rescued a point against PSG in their opening game, but the Gunners were thankful that Edinson Cavani let them off the hook with a stack of missed chances.
Arsene Wenger’s side saw off Basel at the Emirates in the most comfortable manner imaginable at the Emirates last time out; their 2-0 win barley reflecting the number of chances they created. Ludogorets fared quite well against Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side in this competition two seasons ago and have by no means embarrassed in their first two games this time around. Speaking before the game, Wenger was keen to warn against complacency and any slip up:
“We play three home games this week and we are maybe the favourites in every game, or expected to win every game.
“We know as well, and we learnt against Swansea, that as soon as you ease off a little you’re in trouble because the differences between teams is very small.
“Ludogorets have lots of experience in the Champions League now and I watched the game against Paris St-Germain. They are a very good side.”
The Gunners lost a group game at home to Olympiakos last season, and Wenger’s tenure in north London has been dotted by kamikaze nights in Europe when Arsenal underperform badly. However, they seem to have a renewed focus about them at present. Exemplified by the resurgent form of Theo Walcott, Arsenal are pressing opponents from the front and counter attacking quickly while opposition defences are out of shape.
In recent seasons, they have had problems scoring goals at home against deep-lying defences. This term, goals are coming with ease; they are the joint top scorers in the Premier League. Too often, games at the Emirates have settled into long periods of sterile Arsenal possession. However, there is much more pace in their side at present, both in their passing and across the ground.
Elsewhere, Wenger has said that persuading Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to sign new deals will depend on proving that Arsenal can compete for titles. Both star players have two years remaining on their current deals, and the club are locked in negotiations with both regarding new contracts. Arsenal’s financial position has been weakened slightly by the fall in the Pound in recent weeks, but Wenger is insistent that any Premier League club can afford to pay big wages with the new TV deals. He said:
“I think these kind of players can raise a little bit above the financial aspect of the game because they are not poor and they have to look really on the football side.
“We have a scale of wages but it has become a bit more individual than when I arrived 20 years ago because every case is a bit special. It has changed a little bit but anyway – you don’t need to worry, they are all well paid.”
Finally, Juventus are sniffing around Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla who is out of contract at the end of the season. The Spaniard turns 32 this December, and Wenger has sometimes been reluctant to hand extended deals to players over the age of 30. The former Malaga midfielder however is looking evergreen at present and had reinvented himself as a deep lying midfielder.
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