LONDON: Arsenal will never have a better opportunity to regain the Premier title for the first time in 12 years. Champions Chelsea are out of the race, Manchester City are over-dependent on the frail Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero and Manchester United are still out of sorts.
Manager Arsene Wenger has maintained his support base among board and fans by keeping the Gunners in the Champions League every season and by winning the FA Cup for the past two seasons.
But, at 66, time is not on his side in pursuit of a 14th league championship. All this knowledge may also be persuading Wenger into a busy month in the transfer market. Unusually he has raised expectations by saying: “I’m already busy. I have already said we are a bit short of players to deal with all the competitions we face, especially in midfield.”
Arsenal are close to a deal for Egypt’s Mohamed Elneny from Basel to strengthen midfield where Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin remain sidelined for some weeks through injury. Wenger has also been linked with moves for the former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez and Victor Wanyama of Southampton.
Wilshere and England forward Danny Welbeck are not expected to be back before the end of next month.
The Gunners opened up a two-point lead at the top of the table on Saturday after a hard-fought 1:0 victory over Newcastle. Laurent Koscielny’s volley earned the three points after Olivier Giroud flicked on a corner for the French defender to score his third goal of the season.
Mesut Ozil played a key role again in midfield. He has been Arsenal’s outstanding player of the season and, if the Gunners do win the league title, then he will be in line for the various footballer of the year prizes. But Wenger is aware his consistency comes at a price in terms of fatigue.
Özil has started all but one match in the league and Europe this season but is now expected to be given 10 days off, therefore missing next weekend’s FA Cup tie against Sunderland.
Wenger explained: “At the moment Mesut Ozil doesn’t practise a lot, we rest him a lot between the games because he is a guy who, once the basic fitness is there, always wants to play.”
This brought Wenger back to his concerns about injuries and the immediate need for reinforcement.
He said: “I could rest him more if I had other players available, because Wilshere can play in his role and Cazorla can play there too.”