Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has admitted the club will be active in the January transfer window, as he seeks to steer the Gunners to their first Premier League title in 12 years.
Speaking to the assembled media on Wednesday ahead of the clash with Newcastle United this weekend, transfers were a hot topic for the journalists in attendance, most notably Arsenal’s reported pursuit of FC Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny.
Wenger revealed there will definitely be activity during the midseason window, conceding there are holes in his squad which need filling. “I’ve already said we are a bit short,” said the Frenchman, per Alex Richards of the Daily Mirror. “We will be busy.”
Elneny is expected to be one incoming player. As noted by Richards, the midfielder reportedly underwent a medical on Tuesday ahead of a £5 million move and his tenacious qualities in the middle of the park will give Arsenal some long overdue depth in defensive midfield.
But, as expected, when asked if the medical had been undertaken, Wenger was giving very little away. “You know more than me,” he said, per Richards. “Sadly we cannot announce anything yet.”
News Wenger is looking at bringing in some fresh faces in January will be music to the ears of Arsenal fans, as they begin 2016 at the top of the Premier League.
It leaves Arsenal as the big favourites in the eyes of many to go on and secure the top prize in the English game. Wenger sought to keep expectations under control, though, per the Arsenal Twitter feed:
Arsenal FC @Arsenal
The boss on the title race: "You cannot rule us out. We have a chance and we want to fight for it." Watch it LIVE: https://t.co/fh4FyeG5tv2015-12-30 09:32:37
Wenger also stressed that, despite the problems being endured by some of the established elite, there is a long way to go in the season yet, per Richards:
You cannot say that we have no chance after 19 games, we have a chance. We are mature and the most important thing is at the end of the season to know we’ve given everything. If a team is better than us then fair enough. But we must give everything. …
I'm confident. We fight to stay there. It’s a long way to go, it’s just half way. Everyone wants to predict who can win it, but it’s only half way.
We have to raise above that and show we can deal with all that [pressure]. We have to be guided by playing better football. We can have great solidarity in every game and we have a chance.
One of the main reasons many feel Arsenal have a much better chance is due to the acquisition of Petr Cech, who has been a model of consistency between the sticks since joining from Chelsea in the summer.
“When you look at his record, he’s absolutely fantastic,” gushed Wenger, per Richards. “I must say I'm surprised how quickly he integrated into our team. He looks like he’s always been here with us. And he became important inside the team.”
Looking ahead to the clash with Newcastle, Wenger did provide an update on some key players suffering with injuries and insisted there would be changes to the starting XI, per Ben Dinnery of ESPN FC:
Ben Dinnery @BenDinnery
Wenger on Wilshere (potentially) missing the Euros: "I don't believe that at all. I would say, end of February." #AFC2015-12-30 09:34:11
Ben Dinnery @BenDinnery
Wenger will look to rotate. Mathieu Flamini "has a chance" but Alexis Sanchez "is a bit short." #AFC2015-12-30 09:31:42
As the end of 2015 creeps closer into view, Wenger was also asked how he viewed the calendar year as a whole for this team:
Arsenal FC @Arsenal
The boss: “2015 was a positive year for us because we were consistent. We have improved our results." Watch it LIVE https://t.co/fh4FyeG5tv2015-12-30 09:30:32
A win over Bournemouth helped banish the bad memories of the 4-0 loss to Southampton and another victory on Saturday would see the Gunners get a new calendar year off to a wonderful start.
Anything less than three points against a desperate Magpies side would trigger inevitable concerns among the fanbase.
Wenger may feel as though 2015 was a prosperous 12 months for Arsenal having won the FA Cup, then finishing the calendar year top of the table. But he’ll be demanding more from his players during the run-in and will be acutely aware that the coming months have the potential to be very special for the club.