Belfast Telegraph

Wenger's targets demand place in Europe before joining Arsenal

By Sam Wallace and Robin Scott-Elliot

Arsene Wenger's attempts to recruit desperately needed reinforcements to bolster his faltering side may rest on Arsenal's abilities to reach the Champions League. Wenger is hopeful of bringing in Sochaux's Marvin Martin, but two more of his targeted signings, Yann M'Vila and Eden Hazard, will wait until after tomorrow night's second leg against Udinese before deciding on a move to the Premier League.

Wenger is seeking to fill the gaps left by Cesc Fabregas's departure and Samir Nasri's impending move to Manchester City ahead of next week's transfer deadline. Everton's Phil Jagielka remains a target too, although the England centre-half is also unsure whether to make the move.

Martin has emerged as one of the rising stars of Laurent Blanc's refreshed national side – he scored twice in a summer friendly against Ukraine – and would cost in the region of £10.5m. Earlier this month Martin, 23, received high praise from the France manager after another friendly against Chile in which he outshone Nasri. "He feels the football," was how Blanc described Martin, who is known as "Petit Xavi" at Sochaux. Wenger works for French television as a co-commentator on international games so is well aware of his abilities.

At 21, M'Vila is another young player whom Blanc has turned to. Arsenal have made a bid for the holding midfielder, with Rennes wanting around £12m. Hazard has long been coveted by Wenger and will come at a greater price, with Lille seeking £20m-plus for the playmaker who has also made his mark internationally as part of a bright young Belgium team. But both want to play Champions League football and are reluctant to say yes to Arsenal until after tomorrow's game against Udinese, with Arsenal defending a 1-0 lead from the first leg.

Having picked up one point – and failed to score – in their opening two Premier League matches against Newcastle and Liverpool, Wenger has come under increasing pressure to make high-profile, experienced signings. Money, Wenger maintains, is not a problem. In this transfer window he has brought in Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson and the Japan international, Ryo Miyaichi. But of those only Gervinho, who also arrived from Lille, demands a place in the club's strongest XI.

Wenger's troubles increased yesterday when Uefa extended his European touchline ban by a further two matches for passing messages to his coaching staff during last week's first leg against Udinese. Arsenal were also fined €10,000 (£9,000) for improper conduct of their officials during the game. The club are to appeal against the decision.

Wenger was originally banned for his comments after Arsenal's Champions League defeat by Barcelona last season. Against Udinese he sat next to first-team coach Boro Primorac, who was in telephone contact with the bench. Arsenal insist that Uefa officials had told them before the game that Wenger could pass on messages to Pat Rice, the assistant manager, through Primorac.

Wenger will have Robin van Persie back from suspension tomorrow, following his ban for being sent off against Barcelona. Alex Song and Gervinho, who are serving domestic suspensions, can also play, while Jack Wilshere is expected to have recovered from his ankle injury.

Belfast Telegraph


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