Wednesday 21 February 2018

Wenger happy to stick with his Guns

Sam Wallace

Arsene Wenger says that he would be "strong enough to resist" signing sub-standard players before tomorrow's January transfer deadline and admits that Arsenal's attempts to sign David Villa from Barcelona are all but over.

It is likely the club will try one more time for the striker. However, Wenger prepared Arsenal fans for the possibility that their already weakened squad might not be augmented this month.

Wenger, who insisted it was "not on the agenda" that David Beckham, a 37-year-old free agent who is training with the club, could sign, said: "I have to try not to get caught up in that (transfers) in January. People expect us to buy someone of top quality, but I have to be strong enough to resist or you have a player for four or five years who will never play a game – an average player who you know at the start is average. If I do that, I don't do my job."


The Arsenal manager argued that in Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho – "the best striker" at the Africa Cup of Nations, he said – there was enough experience among his forwards to challenge for a Champions League place this season.

Arsenal have looked at a number of possibilities this month, including the likes of Villa, but Wenger said that Barca had made it "very clear" that the 31-year-old was not for sale. "You respect the desire (of the club)," he said. "If I say that somebody is not for transfer, I expect the other clubs not to try to buy him."

Asked whether he had been scarred by the signing of Park Ju-young, a late buy in the summer of 2011, Wenger said his worst fear was buying "a normal player" who would then block the progress of young players.

As for his current striking options, Wenger added: "If Walcott had left, everybody would have said you lost a top striker. Giroud is getting there, I believe. If you look at the African Nations, the best striker is Gervinho and after him we have one or two good young players who will get a chance.

"We have Podolski, who we bought to play as a central striker, so we have quality strikers. If you look at the number of goals we've scored, we've scored more than last year when we had the best striker in the Premier League (Robin van Persie). That means the players who play have some qualities to score goals."

Wenger (right) does not envisage adding Beckham to his squad, but will integrate him in first-team training and believes that just his presence can provide a timely boost.

Wenger is conscious that Beckham remains an iconic and inspirational figure in the eyes of his core of young British players, notably Jack Wilshere, 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, having left LA Galaxy last month, he is now a free agent and can join any club, even after the transfer window closes.

Beckham has been keeping himself fit since helping LA Galaxy to a second MLS title. He has offers from across the world and intends to make a final decision on his future during the next month.

Asked if a deal 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.

"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."

Arsenal yesterday announced a freeze on ticket prices for next season. (© Independent News Service)

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