Wenger targets loan signing despite £60m to spend
Arsene Wenger will turn his attention to bolstering his midfield options over the last week of the transfer window with Arsenal already making fresh inquiries over a loan move for Marseilles' Argentinian international Lucho Gonzalez and Sochaux's Marvin Martin.
Wenger is understood to have asked Marseilles about the option of taking Gonzalez, 30, on loan for this season for a fee of up to €5m (£4m) for nine months dependent on how many games he would play. The midfielder is 30 years old and the French club would prefer to sell him outright but Wenger has reservations about a permanent deal because of the player's age.
The Champions League draw yesterday threw Arsenal and Marseilles together in Group F and it is not clear whether that would affect the deal going through, but nonetheless the Arsenal manager does have options. Martin, 23, has been of long-term interest to Wenger and the feeling in France is that a bid of around €15m would be enough to secure the player from a club who finished fifth in the French championship last year.
There is still a long-standing interest in Yann M'Vila of Rennes although at €25m he would be up there with the most expensive signing Wenger has ever made at the club. Having agreed deals worth around £60m for Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer, the Arsenal manager has a week in which to add to his squad but with the disadvantage that the clubs he seeks to buy from know exactly how much money he has at his disposal.
There appears to be a serious reluctance on the part of Lille to sell Eden Hazard to Arsenal having already parted with Gervinho this summer. Wenger is understood to have been in a meeting yesterday with chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, to discuss the club's transfer strategy for the next five days. Wenger said on Wednesday night: "We work very hard but we have a lot of players who were out [injured], who are top-class players, I think they [returning] can be positive as well.
"There may be signings but I cannot give you any names. I cannot lie and say we will sign players tomorrow because it is not true, but we are trying very hard." The Arsenal manager has maintained his interest in Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill in the hope of bringing Bolton, Everton or even both clubs to the negotiating table.
The Arsenal goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, said that his game-defining save from Antonio Di Natale's penalty against Udinese in Wednesday's qualifier was a question of psyching out the Italy international. "I just tried to get into Di Natale's head – I gave him a bit of stick," he said. "I was probably not very nice to him. But it worked, so I'm delighted.
"I will miss out a few words but I just told him he was not good enough, that I was too good for him and he was not going to score. Put in a nice way, I got in his head because he missed the penalty and it worked. He is a quality player, he showed that in the first half with his finish [for Udinese's goal]. I don't think a lot of players in the world could have finished that the way he did. It makes me even happier to save such a crucial penalty at such a crucial moment against such a big player.
"Someone said there is no good saves from penalties, they are just poor penalties. So I don't take too much credit, I just went the right way. It wasn't a great save but I'm still very happy with it."
Despite being a goal down at half-time, with the tie level on aggregate, Szczesny said that the anxiety that seems to have followed Arsenal around this season does not extend to the players. "At half-time, there might have been a lot of people in England questioning the team because we were losing at such a difficult venue to a very good Udinese side," he said. "The only people who believed in the team was the team.
"All the players in the dressing room were very motivated and had the belief that we would come back into the game. We showed very good mental strength and very good quality in the second half. The only people who question the team or manager are the media and the fans. Inside the team, we don't feel that at all, so we know how good our manager is and we believe in what he is doing. We answered a lot of questions."
Robin van Persie said that the win over Udinese could be the moment that Arsenal's season begins in earnest, although they are depleted by injuries and suspension for Sunday's game at Old Trafford. "Of course it's been a hard week, Cesc leaving, Samir leaving," he said. "We've been in the papers for the wrong reasons sometimes – lots of discussions. But I think we played well under immense pressure, so that's a positive sign.
"And now it's up to us to show that every three or four days, because that's football. It's not that we can live on this night for the rest of the month or the rest of the year. We have to do it every single time."
Wenger wish list: Who are Arsenal after?
Defence: Jagielka or Cahill can tackle central issue
Phil Jagielka has been Arsène Wenger's No 1 defensive target for most of the summer. The key problems have been that Everton feel that Arsenal have grossly undervalued the player with a £12m bid earlier in the transfer window. The second has been Jagielka's reluctance to push for a move to a club whose future he, understandably, has doubts about.
Now 29, he signed a new four-year deal in March and as recently as last week David Moyes was reiterating the point that Jagielka has not pushed to leave this summer. "I have had two or three conversations with Jags," Moyes said then. "He has said to me that unless it is something Everton want to do, he is not going to be the one who instigates or pushes anything. It will only be if Everton want to do it and I certainly don't want to do it."
One possible way around Jagielka's reluctance would be to sign his friend and team-mate Leighton Baines who is quickly establishing himself as the heir to Ashley Cole as left-back of the England team. Although Wenger sanctioned the sale of Gaël Clichy this summer to allow Kieran Gibbs to become the club's first-choice player in that position, the 21-year-old is already injured. It would be a big call to block Gibbs' progress – expensive and against Wenger's philosophy – but it would solve the uncertainty he faces in that position.
Gary Cahill is the alternative to Jagielka and it would appear that a bid has finally gone in for the Bolton Wanderers and England international this week. The Bolton chairman, Phil Gartside, said on Sunday that every player has his price but by keeping open their interest in Jagielka and Cahill, Arsenal have at least ensured that they have more leverage in their negotiating position.
Midfield: M'Vila can hold fort but Wilshere needs help too
This is the big question for Wenger given that he has lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer. At the end of last season there was a clear need for another defensive midfielder to support Alex Song but the emergence this season of Emmanuel Frimpong – while still not the finished article – has made that less of a priority. All the same, Wenger's key target would appear to be the Rennes midfielder Yann M'Vila, who is valued at as much as €25m (£21.9m), and is a holding midfielder.
That fee may be enough to put Wenger off and he may feel that he can get by this season with Song and Frimpong. But he cannot afford not to add some creativity to his midfield to take some of the burden from the young shoulders of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey in particular. Again, in this department the Arsenal manager appears to be spreading his bets to allow himself greater scope in negotiations.
He is known to have an interest in Lucho Gonzalez, who Arsenal would like to take on a loan deal from Marseilles. There is also the Sochaux midfielder Marvin Martin, a relatively new France international who fits the bill as a Wenger player: small, technically gifted and French. He would be available for around €15m. Beyond those two there is the Brazilian Jadson, who plays for Shakhtar Donetsk, who is another possibility.
Jadson's Shakhtar team-mate and compatriot Willian is another name who has been mentioned but that would appear to be more a case of wishful thinking on his part. The Brazilian has even been granting interviews to British media this summer in an attempt to get himself a move to the Premier League.
Forwards: Options are few, but Hazard can limit burden on injury-prone van Persie
If he can find a club, and they can agree the fee, then Nicklas Bendtner will be allowed to leave this week although it was expected that he would have gone by now. Either way, Wenger does not appear to consider the Danish striker part of his plans. Marouane Chamakh, who faded so badly in the second half of last season, was very poor against Udinese in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier and does not seem to have regained his form.
The fear is that it will all come down once again to Robin van Persie to score the goals for Arsenal this season, and he cannot be relied upon to stay injury-free. Finding a centre-forward is problematic. In terms of player trading it is the most sought-after position in world football and even for Wenger it is not simply a case of picking one off the shelf, as the Arsenal manager is often at pains to point out.
It is clear that the Arsenal manager would like to sign Eden Hazard from Lille but having already bought Gervinho from them this summer, the French club are understandably reluctant to sell. There have been intriguing reports of an attempt to sign Kaka on loan from Real Madrid. The Brazilian is no centre-forward but he would lend a very interesting new dimension to Arsenal. Signing a striker is the one area where Wenger seems to have very few options.