Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea have created their own player shortage: Wenger

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsene Wenger sympathises with Chelsea counterpart Antonio Conte over the size of his squad -but reckons the Blues have made their own problems by loaning out so many players.

Conte has spoken out several times during pre-season about what he perceives to be a lack of depth in his squad.

The Italian delivered the Premier League title at the first time of asking last season.

But, despite spending in excess of £130m on fresh talent, his future has reportedly been up in the air as he is unhappy with the number of players at his disposal.

Chelsea skipper Gary Cahill echoed those sentiments after the reigning champions were beaten on penalties by Wenger's Arsenal in the Community Shield last weekend.

Wenger has the challenge of trying to shift players from Arsenal's bloated ranks, but he suggested Chelsea have made a rod for their own back after typically sending over 20 players on loan in recent seasons.

Asked if he was surprised that Conte was complaining, Wenger said: "Maybe, yes he has the opposite problem (to Arsenal) but if you look at the number of players on loan, they can call a few back.

"I have sympathy for him. But do I feel sorry because they don't have enough players? No."

The Stamford Bridge side have so far recruited Antonio Rudiger from Roma, Monaco's Ligue 1-winning midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko and also broke their transfer record to sign striker Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid.

Arsenal also shattered their record fee to bring in forward Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon.

Wenger pointed to the goal ratio of his French compatriot Lacazette, who averaged a goal every 86 minutes last season.

"With Lacazette it is simple," Wenger said. "He is an intelligent player who can integrate our game well as we have a game backed on mobility, technique.

"After that we get the efficiency. His record in France is to score one in 80 minutes. If he can maintain that record that would be ideal for us. As a game is in 90 that would guarantee you a goal."

Arsenal start their Premier League campaign at home to Leicester tonight. One player now highly unlikely to be moving to the Emirates is Foxes winger Riyad Mahrez - who was heavily linked with the Gunners earlier in the summer.

The Algeria international has stated his wish to leave but Wenger insists Arsenal were never looking to land his signature.

"We were never close," he added when asked about Arsenal moving for Mahrez. "I rate him as a player but we have similar types with Alex Iwobi, Jack Wilshere back. Mesut Ozil... we have plenty of the same type of players."

Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare, meanwhile, hopes the Foxes can end their Arsenal hoodoo - they've yet to beat the Gunners in the Premier League era.

"The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world and Arsenal are one of the best clubs in it, year after year they've shown their consistency," said Shakespeare.

"We haven't been able to beat them yet but there's always a first time and it would be nice to be Friday.

"The players are champing at the bit to get started.

"It will be difficult, with the quality of their players, their fan base and the money that they can spend, but that's the Premier League."

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