Belfast Telegraph

No panic buys at Arsenal after David Villa refusal

By Sam Wallace

Arsène Wenger has said that he would be "strong enough to resist" signing sub-standard players before the January transfer deadline and admitted that Arsenal's attempts to sign David Villa from Barcelona were all but over.

It is likely that the club will try one more time for the striker. However, Wenger prepared Arsenal fans for the possibility that their already weakened squad might not be augmented this month.

Wenger, who insisted it was "not on the agenda" that David Beckham, a 37-year-old free agent who is training with the club, could sign, said: "I have to try not to get caught up in that [transfers] in January. People expect us to buy someone of top quality but I have to be strong enough to resist or you have a player for four or five years who will never play a game... an average player who you know at the start is average. If I do that, I don't do my job."

The Arsenal manager argued that in Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Gervinho – "the best striker" at the African Cup of Nations, he said – there was enough experience among his forwards to challenge for a Champions League place this season.

Arsenal have looked at a number of possibilities this month, including the likes of Villa, but Wenger said that Barça had made it "very clear" that the 31-year-old was not for sale. "You respect the desire [of the club]," he said. "If I say that somebody is not for transfer, I expect the other clubs not to try to buy him."

Asked whether he had been scarred by the signing of Park Ju-young, a late buy in the summer of 2011, Wenger said his worse fear was buying "a normal player" who would then block the progress of young players.

As for his current striking options, Wenger added: "If Walcott had left, everybody would have said you lost a top striker. Giroud is getting there, I believe. If you look at the African Nations, the best striker is Gervinho and after we have one or two good young players who will get a chance.

"We have Podolski, who we bought to play as a central striker so we have quality strikers. If you look at the number of goals we've scored we've scored more than last year when we had the best striker in the Premier League [Robin van Persie]. That means the players who play have some qualities to score goals."

Arsenal have announced a freeze on ticket prices for next season.

Odds Arsenal 13-10 Draw 12-5 Liverpool 2-1

Kick-off 7.45pm (Sky Sports 2; Highlights BBC 1, 10.35pm)

Referee K Friend (Lancashire)

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