Arsène Wenger is maintaining his good humor well. After the post-match interviewer got the questions about Sunday’s 1-1 draw at newly-promoted Leicester out of the way, and was clearly about to change tack, Wenger started laughing. He knew what was coming. He knows that at this time of year, English soccer is obsessed with only one topic. Who are you going to buy?
The question is often barely a question at all. Yet again, the Wenger was reminded that striker Olivier Giroud is out with a long-term injury. The clear implication was that Arsenal has no choice but to buy a replacement.
“If the solution every time you don’t win is just to buy a new player everybody would do that.’’ Wenger answered. “We are disappointed not to get three points but let’s not all put that down to missing a striker, football is a bit more complicated than that.”
But Wenger, who in recent days has been responding to such questions by smiling, almost flirtatiously, and listing the players he already has, then deviated from that script.
“We are open and we work on it,” he said. “We are very active.”
Perhaps he dropped his guard because the end of the transfer window is on Monday. Or perhaps Wenger knows he won’t disappoint Arsenal fans. Last year, after all, he signed Mesut Ozil for £43 million (almost $67 million at the time) as the transfer window shut.
Arsenal clearly has holes. It was short of central strikers even before Giroud was hurt and short of central defenders even before Laurent Koscielny came off on Sunday with a head injury. Yet the display at Leicester illustrated Wenger’s point – adding a player wouldn’t have helped much.
“We lacked a bit creativity and sharpness,” he said, quite rightly.
However, Arsenal is not the only club that is “very active.”
Deloitte, the auditing and consultancy firm, estimates that 20 percent of the spending in a transfer spending happens on the last day of the window. After Chelsea bought Loïc Remy on Sunday, the total this summer is somewhere between £750 million and £775 million. That eclipses last summer’s £630 million. Another 20 percent in the final day and a half will add £150 million to the total, and it could be more.
Transfer deadline day has the formula for a flurry of action. Coaches and chairmen have spent the summer seeking the best price for both purchases and sales. Three weeks into the season most have learned that their squads are not quite as good as they thought. Meanwhile, players and agents who had been holding out for the best move, or hoping to cling on at their current club, may accept reality and move to teams that were not their first choice. The pressure is increased because once the window shuts, clubs have to name a squad of just 25 players for the next four months of the season.
While Arsenal has needs and money to spend, Wenger knows that his Monday is going to be a lot calmer than Louis van Gaal’s.
Manchester United’s limp 0-0 draw at Burnley on Saturday only confirmed that the Dutchman still needs to replace pretty much the whole defense and midfield. Everyone in soccer knows United wants to bring in as many good players as they can get their hands on while trying to shift out a raft of players who are on Manchester United wages but not of Manchester United quality. United will have to buy and sell for desperation prices.
Perhaps that’s why Wenger was smiling.
For Tottenham fans clutching at straws, there are two encouraging stats from Sunday’s 3-0 home loss to Liverpool. Last season it was 5-0. And this time Tottenham did manage one shot on goal -- that’s one more than last December. Even so, suddenly the apparent improvement under Mauricio Pochettino evaporated. Spurs were again outclassed by one of last season’s top four teams…
As for Liverpool, the difference between the 5-0 game and the 3-0 game is the two goals Luis Suárez scored last time, although if Liverpool keep setting up Mario Balotelli for five strikes a game, Super Mario will surely take some of them…
In the summer of 2012, Manchester City spent modestly as it refreshed its title winning squad. The next season, City drifted home 11 points behind Manchester United. This summer City, a champion again, has once more been relatively restrained on the market; it’s only the fifth highest spending club. On Saturday, City looked tired and punchless as it lost, 1-0, at home to Stoke. The Manchester City cycle of success and failure might be repeating itself….
Pressure is the game in the Premier League. You apply it as early as you can: high up the field, immediately you lose the ball and right from the kick off. Few teams spend the first 15 minutes “feeling each other out.” They try to catch their opponent’s cold. On Saturday, Crystal Palace and Chelsea scored in the first minute. Swansea scored in the second. Chelsea scored again in the third. And Chelsea and Palace were both playing away…
Being on the bench at the start doesn’t make a player immune to mistakes. Both Muhamed Besic of Everton and Andros Townsend of Tottenham turned the ball over with their first touches this weekend. In both cases the their opponents exploited the turnovers and scored. The pressure got to them…
Last season, if Chelsea went two goals up, it retreated into defense. On Saturday at Everton, José Mourinho did, eventually, take off his creative trio, Cesc Fàbregas, Willian and Eden Hazard, to finish with three defensive midfielders and, quirkily, two center forwards. But by then Chelsea had scored all but the last of its six goals and had conceded three. This is a different Chelsea…
Diego Costa is clearly irritating, as video of the new Spurs signing Federico Fazio punching the Brazilian during a Spanish league match suggests. On Saturday, Tim Howard lost his temper after Costa taunted Seamus Coleman, who had been kicking the Spaniard all game, for scoring an own goal. The hulking American grabbed Costa round the neck. Perhaps Howard also remembered the first-minute shot between his legs and into the net. Costa may lack class. But he is showing another trait guaranteed to irk goalies. He scores against them…