Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Wenger gunning for top quality

Arsene Wenger is interested only in bringing in quality new signings

Arsene Wenger will not compromise on quality as he looks to bring only "top, top, top players" to Arsenal for the new season.

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis may have talked up the Gunners' new ''financial firepower'' at the end of the last campaign - another which ended without any silverware - but so far the only confirmed signing has been France Under-21 forward Yaya Sanogo - on a free transfer from Auxerre.

Arsenal failed to push through a deal for Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain earlier in the summer, and Bayern Munich's Brazil midfielder Luiz Gustavo has joined Wolfsburg.

While the Gunners continue to pursue Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, the bid would have to be considerably closer to £50million to kickstart negotiations, and with the player back in training with the Reds it appeared a reconciliation had taken place with manager Brendan Rodgers.

Lille winger Florian Thauvin is another said to be on Wenger's radar, as is Romania forward Ciprian Marica following his release by Schalke.

Gunners manager Wenger insists it is top quality, not just quantity, which his squad needs for the challenges ahead.

"You certainly heard that we are not scared to spend money, but we want the right players," said Wenger, who confirmed midfielder Mikel Arteta was set for an extended spell on the sidelines with a thigh injury and will miss the Premier League opener against Aston Villa.

"At us, Chelsea and Man United, it is difficult to find the quality players to strengthen the team and the squad who are available at the moment, but there are a shortage of top, top, top players who are available.

"We look more for quality than for numbers. The first request is to have the quality to play for Arsenal Football Club. Yes, we would like two or three players, if possible more, but we will not compromise on the quality of the players.

"I understand every frustration, you have so many frustrated people, but what is important is the quality of what you do on the pitch, so let's not create a crisis from nothing."

Arteta was one of several deadline-day signings in August 2011, along with German defender Per Mertesacker, who will captain the team on Saturday with Thomas Vermaelen still out because of a stress fracture in his back.

While those late moves, which also saw Yossi Benayoun arrive on loan from Chelsea, worked out, Brazilian Andre Santos and South Korean Park Chu-young failed to make an impact.

Wenger, though, insisted there would be no last-minute trolley dash this time around, with the transfer window set to finally close on September 2.

He said: "The situation is completely different, because a couple of seasons ago we lost two or three players in one game and we had no other option than to buy.

"It is maybe more difficult nowadays because there are more quality spenders on the market, especially in France, they have come on the market as well and bought at a very high level, so it is difficult."

Following Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, Wenger is now the longest-serving manager in the Premier League. The Frenchman, 63, feels this season's championship could be one of the most open, arguing six teams were good enough to mount a challenge.

He said: "You have to consider all the teams that made over 70 points last year have a chance. That's a benchmark for me - 70 points.

"If you make 70 points, it means that there is not a lot of difference between you and the (team that finishes) first."

The full extent of Arteta's problem is still to be diagnosed, but Wenger did at least receive a boost regarding the fitness of Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey.

Walcott limped out of England's 3-2 friendly win over Scotland with a knee injury while Ramsey did not feature for Wales at home to the Republic of Ireland due to an ankle problem.

"It could be as long (as six weeks for Arteta), but honestly we don't know yet. We have to check the severity with the doctor," Wenger said.

Given Wenger has also jettisoned several fringe players this summer to free up the wage bill, Arsenal could find themselves somewhat stretched in terms of numbers ahead of their crucial Champions League play-off against Fenerbahce.

"I don't disagree that we are a bit light at the moment," the Arsenal boss added.

"There are 18 days to go until the end of the transfer market and we are of course looking to strengthen our squad."

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