By Ben Giber
You’re familiar with Wenger’s press conferences and interviews, aren’t you?
He sits in front of a row of microphones that eagerly await any inaccuracy of speech that could be used to write an oversized headline in Sundays’ papers. Wenger is cryptic and slightly smug, fielding the usual range of questions directed at a man who often finds himself at the helm of a listing ship.
Although reporters are Wenger’s occasional adversaries, his overall relationship with them is cordial. Wenger carries the swagger of an experienced interviewee, deflecting questions pertaining to controversial topics with one-word answers that draw a resonant chuckle from the room. He typically engages in subtle duplicity, preferring to keep his plans secret from the attending journalists.
Recently Wenger has been rather blunt in his responses to questions about the upcoming January transfer window. One gets the sense that that this may reflect an effort to be upfront with the fans. Wenger has clarified his stance on a potential loan deal for Thierry Henry, which is unlikely to happen and has revealed he won’t be signing Demba Ba. As long as Henry is able to transfer some of his incredible clairvoyance to Walcott as he grows into the center forward role, Wenger will be satisfied.
Were Walcott to sign a new deal, Wenger would be ecstatic. It’s clear that money is available to spend thanks to new commercial deals and revenue from the sales of Van Persie and Song. Wenger’s master plan of sustainability and the fostering of telent from within supplemented by the foreign quality will be put to the test, as intrigued fans will look to see how competitive Arsenal are in the upcoming window. Wenger alluded to one key aspect of any transfer activity that may take place in the pre-match conference ahead of the Newcastle game when he said, “The pace of the transfer deal is not only decided by us”.
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Many disgruntled supporters believe that the signing of a world-class striker would augment the squad; the current presence of players who aren’t of the quality necessary to represent Arsenal occupies the wage and roster space essential to accommodate new players.
After the brilliant performance against Newcastle, the first choice squad looks capable of challenging for a Champions League place, buoyed by the fact that almost every player is fit. However, the fixtures that come with competing in three competitions could easily expose the lack of depth at the club. The departures of Arshavin, Squillaci, Chamakh, and Santos over the next two transfer windows would pave the way for Wenger to restore parity with the top teams in the premier league by allowing him to bring in proven quality replacements.
Speculation has abounded that Nani may be headed to the Emirates, which for anything under 15 million pounds would be a huge steal. Ferguson has stated that he wont be selling Nani but this looks to be a possible negotiating tactic as he was nearly sold in the summer and hardly plays.
Nothing would please Arsenal fans more than to see Wenger poach a player as talented as Nani from Sir Alex and see him subsequently become a success at the club. Nani is a vast technical improvement on Gervinho though he does have somewhat similar issues with delivering an end product.
Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace may be a more realistic target for the Gunners if Nani is unattainable. The midfield positions seem fairly well covered as the Wilshere, Carzorla, and Arteta trio continues to grow in prominence, although they could be strengthened in the summer. A true center forward should be the first priority to compete with Walcott and Giroud, and there seems to be an abundance of quality available in the market.
Following the Newcastle game Wenger was in top form, responding to constant pestering regarding the status of Walcott’s contract situation by saying, “I think he loves the club and the club loves him, and reciprocity in love is the most difficult thing to find”, causing the press room to erupt into laughter. If the Arsenal board backs Wenger properly in order to capitalize on the recent great run of results slowly building confidence within the squad, there can be no doubt that Wenger’s press conferences will become even more enjoyable for all involved.