ARSENE Wenger has kept open the slim possibility of eventually signing David Beckham but stressed that, for now, the former England captain is training with Arsenal purely to get fit and for the example he will provide his young players.
With Arsenal increasingly unlikely to make a signing this month after being rebuffed in their attempts to recruit David Villa from Barcelona, Beckham was at least one new face at the club’s London Colney base on Monday morning.
He was among the first to arrive and, while Wenger does not envisage adding the 37 year-old to his squad, he will integrate him in first-team training and believes that just his presence can provide a timely boost.
Wenger is conscious that Beckham remains a particularly iconic and inspirational figure in the eyes of his core of young British players, notably Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson.
“He’s a fantastic example, that’s one of the reasons I take him here,” said Wenger. “He always has a good word for everyone. The young English players especially look at him and take his advice on board.
“He has done the maximum in his career that you can do. Why? Because he loves football. He arrives before training and, after training, he stays and plays.”
Wenger said that he would have to watch Beckham in training before assessing whether he could still play at Premier League level but, after the player left LA Galaxy last month, he is now a free agent and so can join any club even after the transfer window closes.
Beckham has been keeping himself fit with running and gym sessions since helping the LA Galaxy to a second MLS title eight weeks ago. He has offers from across the world – although not from Arsenal – and intends to make a final decision on his future during the next month as he tries to regain his sharpness.
Asked if something was possible at Arsenal if Beckham really impressed him, Wenger said: “I don’t know. I haven’t even seen him. Honestly, that is not on the agenda. He asked to come here and get fit.”
“You know Beckham is super-ambitious. If in his mind he wanted to play in the Premier League he would not have gone on holiday. He would have prepared and come in and tried to impress me.”
Beckham has previously spent two spells training at Arsenal and has a very good relationship with Wenger. Although he hardly fits the age profile of an Arsenal signing, Wenger has agreed short-term deals for players of particular experience in each of the past three seasons, with Sol Campbell, Jens Lehmann and Thierry Henry all returning.
Beckham would not be sufficiently mobile to play as a winger in Wenger’s Arsenal system but it is conceivable that he could be considered as a deeper lying central midfielder. That is a position Wenger hoped to strengthen this month but he now appears resigned to not being able to find the right player.
“We have fantastic players,” said Wenger. “What do you do? You have to buy one better than we already have. If I bring a normal player in, I give the club a problem because it is for four years and I am stopping the young players having a chance.
“What is important is that you bring in players who can strengthen your team, or you do nothing and are strong enough to do nothing. We’ve scored more goals this season than last year when we had the best striker in the Premier League. We could do with top quality, one more.”
Wenger had hoped that additional “top quality” would come through Villa but he now accepts that Barcelona are not willing sellers. It leaves Olivier Giroud as the only specialist central striker, although Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho can also play in that position.
Arsenal are sixth in the Premier League and, with £40million in his transfer fund and the highest season-ticket prices in English football, Wenger will face considerable criticism if he does not now strengthen and the club remain outside the top four.
Arsenal also announced on Tuesday that they would be freezing their ticket prices for next season.