In Wenger they trust

Only Leicester City accumulated more points than Arsenal last season, yet that rendered an otherwise laudable second-place finish an embarrassment in the eyes of many.

A two-game North American tour to play the MLS All-Stars and Mexican club Guadalajara, gave head coach Arsene Wenger the chance to affirm the views of chief executive Ivan Gazidis that prudence will prevail. And so was dumped a huge bucket of ice-cold water on the superheated fan base raging.

During a postgame press conference following a 2-1 defeat of the MLS All-Stars on Thursday, Wenger confirmed the team was seeking to add one more attacking player. Theo Walcott and Costa Rican Joel Campbell started up front against the All-Stars; Alexis Sanchis, Olivier Giroux, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey all stayed behind to recover from their exertions in summer competitions, and Santi Cazorla is on the traveling squad but didn’t play in San Jose.

“At the moment I’ve not too many attacking options,” said Wenger, the target of fans angered by a lack of Premier League titles since the unbeaten "Invincibles: won the crown in 2004. ”Let’s not forget there are still a few players at home and a few players who didn’t play today, like Cazorla, and of course you have Ozil and Ramsey at home. So we have options. We still look outside to find one more.”

The more pressing need for Arsenal is at centerback. German international Per Mertesacker injured a knee in training and could be out for six months. Laurent Koscielny, who did not travel to the U.S., is a lock-down starter, and the Gunners need stability in the middle. In his first game for the club since an offseason move from Bolton, Rob Holding was the only player to play every minute of the All-Star Game. Didier Drogba scored during a scramble after battling several Arsenal defenders, but Holding belied his young age, 20, by winning many balls and narrowly missing with a powerful header from a corner kick.

“He's adapted surprisingly," said Wenger. “In a very good way, because he reads the game well and understands what's going on, anticipates well. And that's a quality at such a young age that you do not find a lot.”

Some media reports have pointed to Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi as a possible acquisition by the Gunners. He’s 24 and has played 12 games for Germany as well as more than 100 club matches for Sampdoria and Valencia.

Many Arsenal fans were eager to see the most expensive offseason signing to date, Swiss international midfielder Granti Xhaka, whose move from Borussia Moenchengladbach cost about $44 million. His entry into the second half produced a few clever touches, some sharp passes, and the accurate corner kick that Holding nearly crashed into the net. Said Wenger, “He adjusted very well, his passing was clean and technically he did well. Overall, I believe for a first game it's encouraging.”

Mertesacker is looking forward to Xhaka running the show in Arsenal’s midfieid. His arrival has sparked speculation that perhaps Ozil could be moved, if not during the summer window perhaps in January.

"He's a leader and that is really important, especially in midfield,” said Mertesacker of Xhaka, who helped Switzerland reach the European Championship round of 16. “He has got a very good attitude, is very composed on the ball and contributes a lot. He is a good passer as well, so he will set the tempo. I am looking forward to how he does it, how composed he will be in training and in the games. He will be the perfect signing for us."

Striker Takuma Asano is the third offseason addition and like Chuba Akpom, scorer of the winning goal in the All-Star Game, he is a young player of the future rather than right now. Tsano is 21, Akpom is 20, and both could be among the many players loaned out for the 2016-17 season. Young American Gedion Zelalem, 19, who played in Scotland for Rangers last season, is in the same boat.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech, who repelled good shots by Giovani dos Santos and Sebastian Giovinco in his 67 minutes of action, expressed confidence that Wenger will spend wisely and not wildly. Such was often the case at his previous club, Chelsea, which has helped drive transfer prices into the stratosphere since Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought the club.

"I think you need to buy players you need, you need to buy players that will improve the team and not to buy players just for buying,” Cech said. “That's the philosophy of the club. I've been here since last season and you can see that every time we bring in a player, it's a player we need, and the manager believes he improves the team. There is a core of the players who have been at Arsenal for years, and they know that is an advantage as well. People get to know each other, how to play together."

Defender Francis Coquelin says other teams must take lessons from Leicester City, which routinely beat bigger and richer clubs by defending stoutly, attacking confidently, and battling for every ball to the last minute.

“It was a really tight season last season and it was a strange one,” Coquelin said. “I think it was unexpected that Leicester would win it but they did terrifically. We had a strong season, but it's going to be about details. "The games all the people expect us to win, we have to win them and respond as well in the big games. I think that's what we've done in the last couple of years so we have to carry on doing this.”        
1 comment about " In Wenger they trust".
  1. ROBERT BOND, August 1, 2016 at 10 a.m.


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