Arsenal boss points to sustained success during his tenure
UNDER-PRESSURE Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has launched a staunch defence of his record in the transfer market as frustrations grow from supporters at a lack of activity.
While north London rivals Tottenham are preparing to break the £100m barrier for their summer spending, the Gunners have only added striker Yaya Sanogo on a free transfer from Auxerre.
Arsenal’s supporters vented their displeasure at the lack of progress in adding to the squad during Saturday’s surprise 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa and their mood will not improve should they slip up in the first leg of tonight’s crucial Champions League play-off at Fenerbahce.
However Wenger, who has seen bids fail for strikers Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez this summer, plus Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye earlier this week, believes his recruitment record since succeeding Bruce Rioch in the Arsenal hot-seat should have granted him more trust.
“I would just like to reiterate to you that in the last 16 years we have been very successful with transfers,” he said. “If you look at the players who play [tonight] 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.
“I live in a public job where there are opinions of everybody. I do with full commitment what I believe is important for the club and the team and prepare for the next game.
“If we do a transfer we will announce it. As for the rest, you have to leave us to do our own things.”
Wenger was criticised by Newcastle manager Alan Pardew for the timing of the £11m bid made for Cabaye, which came ahead of their 4-0 defeat at Manchester City on Monday.
Pardew branded Arsenal’s conduct “disrespectful”, but Wenger was again on the defensive.
“We don’t want to hurt anybody, not Newcastle, not anybody,” he said.
“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.
“It is quite amazing that all of the people don’t know and yet they always have opinions about things they don't know.”
Arsenal will be without midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tonight, who Wenger says faces a “six-week” layoff with a knee injury.
However, defenders Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs should be available, despite suffering minor knocks.
GUNNING FOR FENERBAHCE
■ Strangely, Arsenal’s opponents this evening could feasibly win the two-legged play-off but still be dumped out of the Champions League, if their appeal against match-fixing charges fails. The Court of Arbitration for Sport has said it will announce its verdict next week, the day after Tuesday’s second leg at Emirates Stadium. European chiefs Uefa have yet to rule whether Arsenal, or another team, would replace Fenerbahce in such a scenario.
■ The Gunners may have lost their Premier League opener at home to Aston Villa but the Turkish runners-up and last season’s Europa League semi-finalists have also started poorly. Fenerbahce followed defeat to rivals Galatasaray in the Super Cup by squandering a two-goal lead in a chastening defeat to newly-promoted Konyaspor.
■ Ersun Yanal’s side features four seasoned Premier League campaigners, with former Everton centre-back Joseph Yobo marshalling the defence, Raul Meireles, once of Chelsea and Liverpool, adding the bite to complement ex-Newcastle schemer Emre’s plotting in midfield, and former Liverpool man Dirk Kuyt supporting the attack.