Arsene Wenger confirmed in Tuesday’s press conference that Arsenal are interested in bringing in quality players this January stating specifically that the number of players was unimportant. Then later, when asked by a journalist if Arsenal were interested in bringing in two players, Arsene said specifically, yes, two.
This idea that Arsene might be both “after two players” and might be “after a non-specific number of quality players” has caused some consternation among the Arsenal faithful. This is especially the case when Arsene also admitted weakness in the defensive midfield position and follows that revelation up with an admission that the Frenchman is a fan of West Ham’s Momo Diame. However, contrary to reports in the Daily Mail it should not be taken as written in stone that Arsenal will sign two players, nor that Arsenal are interested in a holding midfielder, and certainly not that Arsenal have bid or will bid for Momo Diame — regardless of how sparkling his performance is against the Arsenal today.
Arsene Wenger is well known for his impenetrable press conferences. They are often riddles wrapped in an enigma which may contain many potent quotables but little in the way of actual substance. He rarely names names and often jests with the press, and always does so in a way that generates good copy for their headline writers, especially in the January transfer window.
So, when this presser started Wenger was at his level best, refusing to be drawn on which or how many players that the club are interested in. Instead specifying “It is not the number that counts but the quality.”
Then, literally minutes later, he seems to change his mind and admits that Arsenal are after two players. The exchange goes like this:
journalist: “I know you don’t want to talk about specific players but you said earlier that you are after two targets, is that still the case?”
Wenger: “Yes.” (scratches a spot on his neck)
journalist: “Are you any closer to identifying those two?”
Wenger: “We work very hard on it.”
Rather than a flat out admission that Arsenal will sign two players in the next 8 days, this is the admission of a man who seems to be looking for two players. I don’t think of this as a “real” number, more an imaginary number, 2 players if you will.
No mention of specific names, and no mention of specific positions, more like an admission that “if I can get them, I have two players in mind” or more likely “I have two positions that I think Arsenal need strengthening, but it can be difficult to find the quality we would like.” The reason I like the latter interpretation (that it’s positions and not players) is because it jibes with his earlier statement about looking for quality over quantity.
This interpretation of Wenger’s statements does not preclude Arsenal from buying nor guarantee a purchase, it is simply stating that I believe him when he says he is looking for someone and specifically for two positions.
The “two players” quote, however, is preceded by what seems to be an explosive admission that Arsenal are “short” in the defensive midfield position and followed by what could be interpreted as interest in Momo Diame.
But this shortness in the DM position is in the context of admitting that first choice Arteta is out, that backup Diaby is short of match fitness, and that third choice Coquelin picked up a hamstring injury. Perhaps Arsene Wenger is considering a fresh player there, lord knows many would welcome such an addition, but it seems unlikely. Arsenal are basically in the same position with regards to defensive midfielder as they were when they sold Song. And the only mitigating factor would be if Arteta’s injury is worse than thought, then we might see an addition.
And then when asked about Diame he smiles a bit and says that “[Diame] has a great presence in a game, I’ve seen him in games where he’s had a big impact” and “he can drive the midfield.” Precisely the kind of quote he loves to give (right after saying that he doesn’t talk about specific players) and precisely the type of quote the press love, because it generates such great copy on what would probably otherwise be a slow news day.
Maybe Arsenal are in for Diame. But isn’t it just as likely that the two players are a forward to take over from Theo Walcott on the right and an experienced keeper who doesn’t mind helping young Szczesny out?
Debate will rage, doubtless, but one thing you can count on is that no answers will be forthcoming from Wenger on who the targets are/were until after February 1.