Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Wenger calm despite Giroud blow

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger is not intending to sign a replacement for injured striker Olivier Giroud - with Besiktas match-winner Alexis Sanchez proving he is more than capable of leading the line for the Gunners.

Giroud underwent ankle surgery on Wednesday afternoon and could be sidelined until the new year, with Arsenal already linked to a number of targets to come in and take over from the 27-year-old.

But it was summer-recruit Sanchez who scored the only goal of a tense Champions League play-off as Wenger sealed a 17th consecutive season in the group stages of the competition despite having Mathieu Debuchy sent off in the second half.

The Chile international scored his first Arsenal goal on the stroke of half-time and Wenger was delighted with his overall performance.

"I bought him to play as a striker, not to only play on the flanks," the Frenchman said of Sanchez.

"He had a good game, not only on the technical side but on the fighting side.

"He was mobile and dangerous and showed he has great fighting spirit - qualities which will be important in the Premier League."

As well as Sanchez, Wenger also has Yaya Sanago, Joel Campbell and Lukas Podolski at his disposal, while Theo Walcott is another option in attack although he is also currently injured.

Wenger denied any interest in Nikola Zigic or Manchester United's Danny Welbeck and insisted he would not panic buy following the set-back with Grioud.

"You will ask me straight away who we will buy. I give you the answer - at the moment, no-one," he said.

"If you want to make everyone happy you buy all of these players but what is important is the performance on the football pitch. If you look at the players we had on the bench and those out injured, we have players. You cannot buy every time a player is injured.

"We are open for any position as long as we feel the player can strengthen the squad. Buy to buy? I don't see the purpose of that."

Arsenal will now go into Thursday's draw as a top seed and Wenger was pleased with how his players dealt with a tricky second leg against a spirited Besiktas side.

"Overall we produced a performance we wanted," he said.

"We were on the level requested tonight against a good team but we couldn't finish the game off.

It was nervous and very difficult in the final 10 minutes when we were down to 10 men.

"I wanted to qualify and we did it. You must give credit to Besiktas; they are a closed unit, well-organised, physically strong and technically very good.

"We kept (Demba) Ba quiet, he had one chacne with a header at the ened that would have killed us."

Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic, who watched from the stands as he served a touchline ban, refused to critise the referee for not awarding his side a penalty after Jack Wilshere appeared to foul Ramon Motta.

Instead the former West Ham defender focused on praising his side and aiming at a tilt at Europa League glory.

"They showed a little bit of extra quality in the box," he said.

"We are disappointed on one hand but also so proud. My team gave Arsenal 180 very open minutes.

"We didn't give up and in the last 10-15 minutes we were very exciting and they were on the ropes. Not many teams have done that to Arsenal on their home ground.

"We are very, very gutted because we were so close to going through - we are going to come out of this very positive and go in the Europa League.

"We are not there just to particpate, we want to do business there and go very far. If we continue to play like this or better, with a couple of more players.

"We can go far in the Europa League and fight for the Turkish Championship which is always a priority for our club."

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