Wenger Admits Chasing Higuain in summer
Arsene Wenger has revealed how he tried to sign Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid this summer before the player secured his move to SSC Napoli.
The Gunners boss, for the first time, has admitted he rates Higuain very highly and was in the running for his signature after Los Blancos decided to make him available for transfer in the summer transfer window. Despite his best efforts to land the 25-year-old marksman, a deal never materialised, and the player ended up signing for Napoli, who agreed to stump up the £34.5million Real wanted.
Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s Tuesday-night Champions League encounter with the Serie A club, whom Higuain now plays for, Wenger told Arsenal.com: “We were working on two or three targets and he was one of them. It didn’t come off in the end, that doesn’t take anything away from his quality.
“Napoli took advantage of that at the right moment, it’s more about timing as well. In the end Real Madrid sold two great players, one of them went to Napoli, one [Mesut Ozil] went to Arsenal so it’s 1-1 on that front.”
Despite having great admiration for Higuain, Wenger doesn’t exactly regrets not signing him, and that feeling is mutual.
“I am very happy that I have joined Napoli,” Higuain told the Sunday People. “We have started well in the league in Italy and have got off to a good start in Europe too. I know there was other interest from England and Italy, but I am very sure that I made the right choice by joining Napoli and have no regrets. It is a club where I can achieve everything I want.”
Higuain, who spent three goal-laden years with Ozil at Real, then lavished praise on the new Arsenal man.
He added: “I had the pleasure to play with Mesut and he is one of the best players in the world. As a striker he is a dream to play with because you know he is going to create you chances. When you look at some of the crazy fees that players moved for this summer, you have to say that Mesut was a great deal for Arsenal.”
Gnabry Earns Wenger’s Praise
Arsenal starlet Serge Gnabry earned Arsene Wenger’s praise after he starred in the club’s 2-1 win over Swansea City on Saturday.
Making use of a clever Aaron Ramsey pass, Gnabry, 18, took little time to set up his shot, which went past Michael Vorm for the opening goal of the match. It was the first senior goal of his career, and at made him the second-youngest Gunner – behind Cesc Fabregas – to do so.
In addition to that strike, he was extremely vibrant all game long, and Wenger is confident that the youngster could do great things, thanks to his footballing talent as well as his personality.
“He is surprising,” the French trainer said of Gnabry. “He has the talent, but he has the personality on the pitch as well. He doesn’t look timid, he looks to play with belief and, of course, talent. Unfortunately he is another player for Germany, he’s not English.
“He was one-year-old when I came to Arsenal, I can’t believe it. Now I have some players in my squad who were not born when I arrived at Arsenal. The two players who scored (Gnabry and Aaron Ramsey) have a combined age of 40.”
New Bender Bid in January
Arsene Wenger will reignite his interest in Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Lars Bender in January, according to a report published by The Daily Star.
The Gunners boss purportedly tried to recruit the Germany international with a bid of £18.5million in summer but failed. The 31-year-old Mikel Arteta is currently Arsenal’s primary pivot player, but his age and injury problems mean that Wenger cannot rely on him for a long time.
Hence, he would attempt to recruit Bender as the Spaniard’s competition once again by placing a bid in excess of £20m when the transfer window opens up next year. It will not be an easy task though as not only are Bayer reluctant to sell, but the player is also of some interest to Manchester United.
Wenger’s Contract Talks Will Be ‘Straightforward’
Arsene Wenger has dropped a major hint about his Arsenal future by saying that whenever he and the club sit down for extending his contract, the negotiations would be very short.
In a recent interview, he said: “The good thing with me … if I have one quality, you don’t need a lot of talks to extend the contract I have. When will I sign? I don’t know. When we find time. I don’t think that [the contract] is the most important problem at the moment. That’s straightforward.
“I would love to be here for ever because that would mean I would be immortal! I’m not naive enough to believe that. I just want to focus on the quality of our season. I don’t believe that anybody can question my commitment to this club. I want to feel that I do well and then the question of me staying will be secondary after that.”
A few days ago, Arsenal FC’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke had also commented on Wenger’s future, suggesting it is totally up to the Frenchman to stay or leave.
“Arsene is his own man, he will make up his own mind,” Kroenke said. “There is a lot of pressure in the job, he has handled it very well but at some point we all make up our minds whether we continue in our careers.”
Owen Questions Gunners’ Top-Four Credentials
Arsenal FC may be at the top of the Barclays Premier League table at the moment, but retired Liverpool and Manchester United striker Michael Owen believes they aren’t even capable of finishing among top four this season.
The 33-year-old former striker, who played for two of Arsenal’s biggest rivals, rates Mesut Ozil highly but isn’t too impressed by the rest of his teammates.
In his column for the Daily Telegraph, he wrote: “From the start I had my reservations. They seemed not to be spending but then came up with one big investment right at the end of the transfer window. When I look at a squad I see a decent collection of players but not a top-four operation.
“From the back: the goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny is capable but I would have the keeper of all the other top teams ahead of Arsenal’s. In defence, Arsenal are decent, but again none of their back four would make a composite Premier League XI.
“If I look right the way through the Arsenal team, with a view to picking an all-star side from the top six clubs, I would struggle to nominate one Arsenal player. Mesut Ozil is the only one who would have a chance.”