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Sunday 30 April 2017

Arsene Wenger hails his Arsenal strike force

Arsene Wenger is not expecting to welcome any new signings to Arsenal during the current transfer window
Arsene Wenger is not expecting to welcome any new signings to Arsenal during the current transfer window

Arsene Wenger believes he boasts the best attacking unit he has ever had at Arsenal - with his current crop of goal-getters eclipsing even the 'Invincibles'.

While names such as Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robin van Persie and Ian Wright have all been managed by Wenger during his two-decade reign in charge of the Gunners, the Frenchman reckons his 2017 strike force is the strongest collection he has assembled to date.

Wenger saw Danny Welbeck return from a serious knee injury to score twice in the 5-0 FA Cup win at Southampton on Saturday - before Theo Walcott struck a hat-trick to seal an impressive victory.

Olivier Giroud boasts five goals in his last six appearances while summer signing Lucas Perez has hit six goals this season despite finding his first-team chances limited.

Add to that the 15 Premier League goals from Alexis Sanchez, who is tied with Chelsea's Diego Costa as the division's top scorer so far this season, and Wenger's suggestion starts to makes sense.

There may be statues to Henry and Bergkamp outside the Emirates Stadium and the likes of van Persie, Wright, Sylvain Wiltord, Emmanuel Adebayor, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg may have all weighed in with plenty of goals during their Arsenal careers - but the 67-year-old feels he now has a stronger attacking contingent than at any previous time at the helm.

Asked if he now has the best attacking unit in his time at Arsenal - including the side which went unbeaten in 2003/04 - Wenger said: "Yes. I think certainly numbers-wise and quality-wise together.

"We had never had so many players who could perform and score goals - certainly never.

"We had Bergkamp, Henry and after that van Persie behind, Wiltord, Pires...it was not bad. They had the quality but now we have a large number."

The number of attacking options at his disposal presents a new issue for Wenger - and he admits he is unsure how to keep all of his goalscorers happy.

"That is a good question and I don't know in fact," he replied when asked how he can manage all of his attacking stars.

"I think it is to make the decision for the next game that you think is the right one. Sometimes you consider the problem you face.

"Sometimes you consider the fitness of the players, the fact that for example they have played three day before, have they recovered or not. You just try to be honest in your decision and keep everybody on board.

"They are all committed to the club. For example, at the start of the season I bought Perez - who for me is a very good player - but why? Because Welbeck was out until now basically.

"I didn't know how it would take. No doctor can tell you it is March or January. He was ahead of schedule so after sometimes you have a congestion there as some players come back quicker than expected. But when you make the decision to buy, you don't know."

With success in the FA Cup as well as an impending Champions League round of 16 clash with Bayern Munich and a push for the Premier League title which currently sees them second only to Chelsea, Wenger is pleased to be involved in enough competitions to keep his players happy.

"It helps and it is important to stay in all the competition as if you have one game every week and you have several strikers," he added.

"I wish you good luck to keep them happy. It is impossible. People always want you to buy more. And after when you have them they say 'how do you keep them happy now?'

"They all get annoyed. They have a different way to show it. It is part of their job as well."

Speaking at his press conference ahead of Tuesday's league meeting with Watford, Wenger was pushed on the possibility of a surprise January acquisition - with Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann, the Atletico Madrid striker, both linked to Arsenal.

But Wenger has called on his players to prove he is correct not to make any major signings during the January window - which closes shortly after the clash with Watford.

"Yes, of course," Wenger said when asked if his squad's strength influenced his thinking during the transfer market.

"It's not only to buy players, you have to have a need in your squad first of all. I believe that number-wise and quality-wise, we have what is required to do well.

"Now it's down to us to perform and to produce with the quality of our focus, the quality of our ambition and desire to produce the performance in every single game."

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