Wenger says his squad 'not far away' from glory but plays down Benzema rumours

Wenger says his squad 'not far away' from glory but plays down Benzema rumours
A REPEAT? Arsene Wenger, who last lifted the Premier League crown in 2004, is hoping to end the drought next season.
PHOTO: Reuters

They have had several false dawns since they won their last Premier League title 11 years ago, even though they have finished in the top four during this period.

But, Arsenal's FA Cup triumph - a record 12th win for the Gunners - and their third-placed finish in the league last season have given manager Arsene Wenger hope that the Premiership crown may be heading for the Emirates Stadium sooner than later.

At a press conference for the Barclays Asia Trophy final yesterday at the Grand Hyatt Singapore, the 65-year-old Frenchman said: "(The title) is our target, we feel that we have a chance in a very competitive league.

"We finished third last year and we won the FA Cup, so that shows that we are not far away. We have a cohesive group that has quality and ambition to do better.

"But it is difficult to tell how good our opponents are, so it's important to be as good as we can be, then we have a chance."

While the club have had to sell top players such as Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to balance their books in the past, Wenger recently said that those days are over, and they are ready to compete with the best in Europe in the transfer market.

Mesut Oezil and Alexis Sanchez were signed on big transfer fees in the past two seasons, although goalkeeper Petr Cech ($21.3m, from Chelsea) has been their only major signing so far in the off-season.

Fullback Hector Bellerin, who enjoyed a breakout season last term, has been rewarded with a long-term contract, Wenger confirmed.

When someone suggested that Arsenal have not been active in the transfer market because they have all the players they need, Wenger swiftly reiterated his stance from earlier this week.

He said: "We don't rule out (more signings), but we do not guarantee we'd sign more. I am happy with the squad I have and, if I find an exceptional player who will strengthen the squad, I will do it.

"It depends on what is on the market now, and it's not easy because many clubs are out there to buy and the number of players who can strengthen teams is very (small)."

Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema have been linked to the north London side, and Wenger seemed to have left the door open on Benzema.

Asked about transfer rumours regarding the Real striker, the long-serving manager said: "I don't know where that story comes from, but no... not happening at the moment."

On the move for the Gunners, though, is Yaya Sanogo, who will join Ajax Amsterdam on loan this season.

Wenger said: "We have not finished the paperwork yet, but he will go on loan. He came to us injured and it took us a while to get him to top level.

"He's ready to play now and will have an opportunity to feature in the Champions League with Ajax.

"(Former Arsenal players) Marc Overmars and Dennis Bergkamp work there, that's why we have a great relationship with them, and hopefully he (Sanogo) can have a great season."

sayheng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 18, 2015.
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