Arsene Wenger Talks New Signings, Harry Kane, Diving Ahead of North London Derby

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2018

SWANSEA, WALES - JANUARY 30:  Arsenal Head Coach / Manager Arsene Wenger looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Arsenal at Liberty Stadium on January 30, 2018 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Dele Alli's dive in Tottenham Hotspur's draw with Liverpool last weekend ahead of Saturday's crucial north London derby at Wembley Stadium. 

The 21-year-old playmaker was booked for simulation in Spurs' 2-2 draw at Anfield, and Wenger said historically overseas players were infamous for diving in the Premier League, but English players now seem to have caught on, per the Mirror's Aaron Flanagan"We want to get diving out of the game. It used to be the foreigners, but I must say the English players have learnt very quickly and are maybe the masters now."

Wenger also heaped praise on January signings Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Mkhitaryan joined the Gunners from Manchester United as part of the deal that saw Alexis Sanchez move the other way, while Aubameyang signed from Borussia Dortmund, and both impressed in the 5-1 drubbing of Everton last time out.

Wenger praised the Armenia international's "very professional attitude" and hailed the immediate impact of both Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang, per Flanagan:

"It gives a new hope when fresh players come in. But the most important is the team performance. You want a positive history. At the start [it] gives you a swing but after it needs to be backed by performances of the team.

...

"Once the game has started, these guys [Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang] have top-level experience. They know what's important and that's to focus on their performance. These guys are top-quality players. Why should they not repeat the performance [vs. Everton]."

Mkhitaryan provided three assists against the Toffees, and Gabon international Aubameyang netted on his debut.

Wenger will hope both are in similarly fine form to face Tottenham as a victory would see the Gunners move within one point of fifth-placed Spurs in the Premier League table.

The Arsenal boss acknowledged the threat posed by Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who has netted 22 Premier League goals this season, and he admitted the England international is one of the top marksmen in the world, per broadcaster Ian Abrahams:

Wenger provided a fitness update ahead of the Spurs clash, stating No. 1 goalkeeper Petr Cech is a doubt for the match, while Danny Welbeck could return to the squad, per Flanagan: "[David] Ospina or Cech, I will make that decision tomorrow. I will not take any risk if he is not 100 per cent because I have full confidence in David Ospina."

Arsenal won the reverse fixture against Spurs in November 2-0. Wenger will be desperate for a similar result on Saturday as the Gunners continue their bid to force their way back in to the top four.

But Mauricio Pochettino's side are unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions and will prove difficult to beat at Wembley, especially if Kane is on top form. 

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