Belfast Telegraph

Arsène Wenger defends record in transfer market as Arsenal prepare for Champions League test against Fenerbahce

By James Olley

Arsène Wenger has launched a passionate defence of Arsenal's record in the transfer market and moved to reassure supporters that the club has plenty of time to act before the window closes on 2 September.

During a terse exchange with reporters here in Turkey on the eve of the Gunners' Champions League play-off first leg against Fenerbahce, the Arsenal manager bristled at suggestions Tottenham were threatening to steal a march on their north London rivals as they closed in on the £60m capture of Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala and Roma's Erik Lamela. Arsenal have never finished below Spurs in the league during Wenger's near 17-year tenure and have always featured in Europe's premier competition, often at Tottenham's expense.

The Gunners' sole summer signing to date remains French unknown Yaya Sanogo and, despite growing fan unrest, Wenger said: "I am not happy when our fans are not happy because my job is to make them happy. But I cannot listen every minute to every state of mind for everybody.

"I have to focus on and do what I always do – what is important for this club. You cannot look all the time in life at what others do and what you do. You do what is right for you.

"I would just like to reiterate to you that in the last 16 years we have been very successful with transfers. And if you look at the players who play tomorrow, they are top-quality players. And you should never forget that. It is not always to think what is outside is better than what you have. What is important as well is to rate what you have and our fans have to understand that as well.

"Less than two weeks is a long time and 75 per cent of things happen in the last 10 days. What happens is that we are a bit short because we lost two players, Chamberlain and Arteta, in three days for long periods.

"So we are a bit short now but I don't worry because I believe in the players we have, and the quality of their spirit and attitude will come out again. For the rest we have a long time to do what we want to do."

Arsenal had a £10m bid for midfielder Yohan Cabaye angrily rejected by Newcastle on Monday, with their manager, Alan Pardew, claiming the offer was "disrespectful" as it forced the Magpies to withdraw the 27-year-old from their squad hours before a 4-0 defeat to Manchester City.

Asked to explain his interest in Cabaye, Wenger reacted spikily once more. "There's nothing to explain," he said.

"You have your opinions. First of all, you don't know what we have done, you don't know if we did bid and you have come to a conclusion without knowing everything that has happened. It's quite amazing that all of the people don't know and yet they always have opinions about things they don't know.

"I won't explain to you what happened. It's not down to me to explain to you everything I do. It's impossible. If we do a transfer we will announce it. We always inform you. As for the rest, you have to leave us to do our own things.

"We don't want to hurt anybody, not Newcastle, not anybody. You can't reproach us on one side for not buying and yet on the other side when we try to buy to reproach us as well. That is a bit contradictory."

Of more immediate concern is the preservation of Arsenal's unbroken participation in the Champions League under Wenger.

They flirted with disaster at this stage two years ago, somewhat fortuitously coming through a tight two-legged play-off against Udinese, winning 3-1 on aggregate.

Arsenal have never lost a play-off in this competition and can draw on their past form here, having won 5-2 with a typically chaotic display of attacking football during the group stage in October 2008.

Defeat would heap further pressure on Wenger and complicate the picture in trying to attract new players, given the ensuing uncertainty over exactly what European competition they could offer.

Fenerbahce also begin this fixture against a tumultuous backdrop. Just hours before Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi starts proceedings at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will begin in Lausanne to determine the outcome of Fenerbahce's appeal against a two-year suspension from European competition for match-fixing. The CAS has confirmed its decision will be announced on Wednesday – the morning after next week's second leg – but confusingly, Uefa insists no decision has yet been made on what will happen if Fenerbahce win the tie but then lose their appeal.

Arsenal must ensure their ongoing participation does not rest on such legal uncertainties.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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