Saturday 26 May 2018

Wenger hits back at critics of Arsenal transfer policy

Leicester City 0-0 Arsenal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: Reuters
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Photo: Reuters

Sam Stevens

Arsene Wenger needs luck to run on his side this season. It's been another arduous summer for the Frenchman and the indignant cries of "you don't know what you're doing" were there again as his Arsenal side laboured to a stalemate with champions Leicester City.

Revealing after the match how a "big back problem" almost scuppered his plans to hand a first-team return to Laurent Koscielny, Wenger took an 11th-hour punt on the 30-year-old's fitness - one which could have backfired spectacularly for a man already fifth-favourite to be the first managerial casualty of the season.

With Wenger facing renewed calls to open his cheque book, a defeat at Leicester would have heightened the mutinous mood and Koscielny's decision to put his body on the line proved significant in helping Arsenal to their first point of the season.

The France defender has barely trained since returning from Euro 2016 and it was feared he would miss the game after pulling out of training on Friday with a back problem.

"We looked a different team straight away," Wenger said. "He gave us stability against a team that attacks very well and I think he was very important.

Koscielny's defensive partner Rob Holding, one of only two major signings this summer, also impressed, yet Wenger will press ahead with his £25m bid for Valencia's Shkodran Mustafi this week.

Leicester City's Ahmed Musa reacts after a penalty is not awarded. Photo: Reuters
Leicester City's Ahmed Musa reacts after a penalty is not awarded. Photo: Reuters


Mustafi is Arsenal's priority target and a deal for the German centre-half could go through before Saturday's trip to Watford but it is obvious Wenger also needs more attacking players.

Arsenal possessed the cutting edge of a plastic spatula at the King Power Stadium, with Alexis Sanchez worryingly anonymous, and it will not have escaped Wenger's attention that Alexandre Lacazette, with whom they had been linked, scored twice for Lyon on Friday night.

There was also an abundance of misplaced passes and rustiness from both teams, giving credence to the claims of Wenger and Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri that their squads were not yet ready for the demands of the Premier League.

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri. Photo: Reuters
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri. Photo: Reuters

The same could be said of Euro 2016 final referee Mark Clattenburg, who gave a bewildering performance. He should have sent off Francis Coquelin for a second caution in the second half, while Hector Bellerin's tangle with Leicester substitute Ahmed Musa in the 88th minute was a clear penalty for the home team.

Wenger's mood had picked up once the conversation returned to the football.

An inquisition had ensued five minutes previously in the King Power Stadium's media suite.

Pressed on the unsavoury chanting at full-time, the 66-year-old snapped back: "Why do you say I'm reluctant (to spend)?

"I don't understand that. If I buy a player for £45m, I have done well, if I listen to you, but spending money in itself is not a quality.

"I would spend £300m on a player - if I had £300m. We are a club with 600 employees who we need to have a responsible attitude (towards) as well."

Ranieri, meanwhile, grinned his way through another press conference without so much of a grimace when asked if Leicester can repeat their remarkable feat of last season.

The champions have just one point from six but the shoots of recovery were there on Saturday.

This was a glimpse of the verve and vigour Leicester displayed last season, after their underwhelming performance at Hull City on the opening day.

Riyad Mahrez frequently sprinkled stardust, while Jamie Vardy was a constant pest, even though a goal against the club he turned down in June never came.

"Yes, I'm very happy," said Ranieri. "I watched the same spirit, the same squad, the same shape, the same strength. We played as a team and as a unit. I'm very happy, very proud.

"It's important for us to go back in our strength and after we can achieve something. We are slowly getting better.

"We pressed during the whole match and we are very close to achieving 100pc."

On Thursday, Leicester will discover their opponents for their maiden season in the Champions League when the group stage cast list is drawn in Monaco.


Is the Italian excited to be leading the East Midlands club into another new chapter?

"Yes, but for us it's an experience. Which teams we face is good for us and experience."

Ranieri has been linked with a move for Dynamo Kyiv's Austria defender Aleksandar Dragovic and left England on a clandestine trip abroad on Saturday night.

The hum of the owner's helicopter spurting into life could be heard in the distance and he quickly made his exit.

"That's a secret, I don't tell you," he chuckled on his way out.

What Wenger would do for such an excuse to skip his media duties right now. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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