• Defensive-minded player may be next into the Emirates
• ‘Calmest pre-season’ comes to end with arrival of Palace
Arsène Wenger believes Arsenal are “a bit short” in their preparations owing to his players’ exploits at the World Cup, suggesting that he may make another move in the transfer market before the window closes despite a calm and productive pre-season.
Arsenal begin their season at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday evening, one year after an opening-day defeat by Aston Villa ensured a difficult few weeks for Wenger amid much talk of crisis. However, the Frenchman described this summer as “the calmest pre-season we’ve had” following their FA Cup win in May, and as they also prepare for a Champions League qualifier at Besiktas on Tuesday.
Wenger is without his German contingent – Per Mertesacker, Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski – until the game at Everton next weekend, but a defender or a holding midfielder may yet follow Alexis Sánchez, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina and Calum Chambers as recent acquisitions.
“We are a bit short. Honestly, we are a bit short in our preparation because we had 11 players at the World Cup and many of them had longer holidays after that,” Wenger said. “I think this year the final of the World Cup was on 13th July, the start of the Premiership is 16th August, if you want to give some holiday to the players your preparation becomes very short. I think we could have done with one week later for all the competitions, the Champions League and the Premier League.
“Especially because in Fifa rules you have to give four weeks’ holiday to the players. They need a breather. I have had the experience of post-World Cup years and they are always difficult years to get everyone back to the same level, mentally and physically.”
On the potential arrival of further players, Wenger said: “I don’t rule it out. I am still looking. If we find a candidate, I don’t rule it out. We have many games to play. If Chambers goes into midfield, we are short at the back. So we are a bit short. Numbers-wise we are maybe a bit short in certain areas, but the depth of the squad is very good.”
Abou Diaby will be in the squad on Saturday while Laurent Koscielny is likely to be partnered in defence by a stand-in until the return of Mertesacker, with Wenger revealing that Nacho Monreal, Chambers or Mikel Arteta – whose contract talks are ongoing – may play alongside the Frenchman, who has recovered from a minor achilles problem.
Defence is likely to be the area that Wenger looks to strengthen, despite talking up the possibility of Monreal, usually a left-sided player, filling in at centre-back. “He can, yes,” the manager said of the Spaniard. “Because he is intelligent, because he has a good sense of interception, because he reads the game well and because he is a good passer of the ball and for us it is important coming out from the back. People drop off at home so we need very good passing out from the back.
“I’m happy with the players we’ve signed. They have integrated well. This is certainly the calmest pre-season we’ve had. Having a serene environment helps.”