LONDON: Arsene Wenger is not a fan of the January transfer market. He believes that worthwhile major players are not available and that his meticulous preparation for a season would be disrupted by a new face.
But even Wenger is now having second thoughts after Arsenal were held 2-2 at home by Hull and thus to their fifth draw in eight Premier games. Worse, they thus slipped 11 points adrift of league leaders Chelsea after early-season hope of a serious challenge for the title rather than ‘merely’ a Champions League place.
Arsenal were fortunate on Saturday after risking another Hull humiliation. In the FA Cup Final last May Arsenal went two down in eight minutes before recovering to win their first trophy in nine years by 3-2 in extra time. On Saturday Arsenal, given an early lead by Alexis Sanchez, entered stoppage time losing 2-1 to strikes by Mohamed Diame and Abel Hernandez.
Fortunately England centre-forward Danny Welbeck grabbed a last-minute equaliser, his fifth goal since his £16m arrival from Manchester United on deadline day.
Arsenal’s problems began before kickoff. Mesut Ozil is a medium-term absentee with knee trouble, Theo Walcott and Serge Gnabry are not quite fit enough to return to duty, Lukas Podolski was ill and the defence was denied Calum Chambers (suspension) and Laurent Koscielny (Achilles injury).
Wenger had to draft in reserve fullback Nacho Monreal in centre defence so no wonder that Per Mertesacker struggled to hold the line.
At the club’s annual meeting in midweek Wenger acknowledged that Arsenal might have been wise to strengthen the squad with at least one more defensive signing during the summer, particularly after allowing Thomas Vermaelen to head off to Barcelona.
Hence the acceptance of the need to make a January signing with Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin the top target. The French defensive midfielder had hoped to follow former Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham during the summer. But Arsenal are considering topped any Tottenham bid, to the tune of around £25m.
It would have been no consolation for Wenger to learn that Dortmund also have their problems.