‘Never has been an EPL like this’

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

CAR­SON — Arsenal man­ager Arsene Wenger be­lieves there has never been a Premier League quite like the cur­rent one, in terms of the sheer amount of world-class man­age­rial tal­ent now ply­ing its trade in the English top-flight. “No, never. And that makes it in­ter­est­ing as well, be­cause all these man­agers come with big rep­u­ta­tions and big tro­phies,” said Wenger to Ya­hoo Sports. Next sea­son Wenger will be match­ing wits with some of the big­gest man­agers in the mod­ern game, in­clud­ing in­com­ing Manch­ester City boss Pep Guardi­ola, Jur­gen Klopp at Liver­pool, An­to­nio Conte at Chelsea, and his old ri­val Jose Mour­inho, who re­turns to the Premier League to take charge at Manch­ester United. “But at the end of the day, we can talk all day, only one will win it.” The French­man was in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and gave a wide-rang­ing press con­fer­ence ahead of Arsenal’s pre­sea­son ex­hi­bi­tion match against Chivas de Guadala­jara. “It makes the whole thing a bit more in­ter­est­ing be­cause the prepa­ra­tion of the league, ev­ery­body ex­pects to win, and when you don’t win the cham­pi­onship, you are guilty. So it will be the same for ev­ery­body, and if I don’t win it, I will be of course ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed.” The long-serv­ing man­ager, whose team is com­ing off the back of a 2-1 win over the MLS All-stars, ad­mit­ted that de­spite the fact that the up­com­ing Premier League sea­son might be among the most chal­leng­ing of his ca­reer, he still thrived on the com­pe­ti­tion. “It’s al­ways been dif­fi­cult, look at my hair and my wrin­kles and you’ll see it has al­ways been very dif­fi­cult. I think I en­joy it be­cause I am a com­peti­tor and I like per­son­ally to progress and move for­ward.” With trans­fer fees go­ing through the roof this sum­mer, Wenger’s no­to­ri­ous fru­gal­ity on the trans­fer mar­ket has been called into ques­tion once again. He of­fered some in­sight into why he of­ten chooses to prac­tice re­straint, even in the face of the ex­cess shown by other clubs. “I be­lieve a big club is first, de­spite all the money we talk about, is first about iden­tity, about val­ues and to make these val­ues win. We fo­cus highly in­side ou our club on be­ing faith­ful to what we think is im­por­tant in our game and of course per­son­ally, I do that as well. I’m for a long time at the club be­cause I share com­pletely the iden­tity o of this club and the val­ues of thi this club. Un­for­tu­nately in the moder mod­ern game no­body speaks about that any­more.” Wenger’ Wenger’s press con­fer­ence comes in th the midst of Paul Pogba’s record-bre record-break­ing trans­fer from Ju­ven­tus back to Manch­ester United. When pressed for his thoughts on n the no­tion of a player sign­ing for in ex­cess of £100 0 mil­lion, he gave a some­what sur­pris­ing an­swer.

“Look, it’s s com­pletely crazy if you can­not af­ford to pay it. If youu can af­ford to pay it you can jus­tify it,” said Wenger.er. “Since I am in this sport, I al­ways thought it can­not go higher and I was al­ways wrong. Maybe ybe in a few years it will be £200 mil­lion, £300 mil­lion, who knows?”

Arsenal have been linked with a num­ber of play­ers this sum­mer­mmer and Wenger ad­mit­ted the club were in the mar­ket for, among other things, a striker.

“We are still on the mar­ket for play­ers, ei­ther at the front or at the back, we are in the mar­ket. Un­for­tu­nately we e are not alone.”

But whilee Wenger ad­mit­ted the Gun­ners were “in the mar­ket,” ” he re­fused to be drawn on whether the club would ac­tu­ally move for the likes of Alexan­der La­cazette or r Riyad Mahrez.

“The best way to con­clude trans­fers is not to talk about it,t, which is very dif­fi­cult at a press con­fer­ence. But as I just told you, we are in the mar­ket and I don’t like to talk specif­i­cally about any in­di­vid­ual.”

Wenger also pro­vided an up­date on the con­di­tion of f Arsenal cap­tain and first-choice cen­ter-back Per Merte­sacker, who in­jured him­self in a pre-sea­son friendly.

“The on­lyy thing I know is that he will be out for a fewew months. Is it three or four? I don’t know. But cer­tainly I don’t count that Per will be back be­fore the end of the year.”

While Wenger en­ger seems open to sign­ing a re­place­ment for the Ger­man – Arsenal has lately been linked with Va­len­cia’s Shko­dran Mustafi – he e also felt the club is equipped to cope with thehe ab­sence of the World Cup win­ner.

“We have e three young play­ers who will com­pete for r the po­si­tion; [Rob] Hold­ing, who was very­ery im­pres­sive the other night, Krys­tian Bielik, ielik, and Calum Cham­bers. I will have to make a de­ci­sion who is the clos­est to that hat po­si­tion.”

Arsenal fin­ished sec­ond nd last sea­son, son, 10 points be­hind cham­pi­ons Leicester City. The man­ager, whose last Premier League ue ti­tle win was 12 years ago, seemed ed to sug sug­gest that hat part of the rea­son ea­son the Gun­ners fell short last sea­son may have stemmed from over­con­fi­dence.

“Thehe games we were ex­pected to win com­pletely we won, but the games where we fought against teams who were be­tween fifth and 10th, like Southamp­ton, Swansea, sea, you know we dropped too many points against st these kinds of teams. They are very good teams s but we thought maybe too much we would win the games.” ames.” Wenger,nger, who is now the long­est-serv­ing man­ager in thethe the Premier League by some con­si­con­sid­er­able con­sid­er­able dis­tance, was cir­cum­spect when pressed on the North Lon­don club’s chances of ggogo­ing one bet­ter than last year’s sec­ond place fin­ish and win­ning the league this time.

“We have to fo­cus on our qual­ity and try to strengthen our team. I think we had 18 teams be­hind us last year, we make sure we get 19 be­hind us next sea­son.” — Ya­hoo

Arsene Wenger. Jose Mour­inho. Jur­gen Klopp. PEP Guardi­ola. An­to­nio Conte.

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