Arsenal feel the pressure to win silverware

Arsene Wenger admits Per Mertesacker’s knee injury means Arsenal are back in the market for a defender, as chief executive Ivan Gazidis accepts the club is feeling the pressure to win a major trophy.

Mertesacker suffered the knee problem in Friday’s pre-season draw with Lens and did not travel with the squad for two friendlies in the US.

“We have bad news on Per Mertesacker,” Wenger confirmed, ahead of today’s clash with the MLS All-Stars.

“He played in Lens on Friday night, he finished the game and had a little pain on his knee. We found out the next day that it was much more serious than expected.

“He had surgery yesterday in Germany. It all went well. I know you will ask me for how long he will be out. I don’t know that, it’s months, but I don’t know how long he will be out for.”

The injury comes as a blow to Wenger, who also left fellow centre-back Gabriel in England and has given Laurent Koscielny an extended break following his exertions with France at Euro 2016.

That means, at 21, Calum Chambers is his most experienced defender on the US tour, with new signing Rob Holding also expected to play a major role in both pre-season matches in America.

But with the new season looming, Wenger admits the setback with Mertesacker means he will be forced to look for another defensive recruit.

“We have to look for an option to get a bit more experience,” he said.

“With Per being out, we are a bit short on the experience front and we are looking to bring somebody in.”

Wenger was in no mood to offer any suggestions of who he may be tempted to bring in. “On the transfer front, I think the best option is always to keep as secret as possible. If we sign somebody, we will announce it. But I cannot tell you much more on that.”

Arsenal have recruited Granit Xhaka, Takuma Asano and Rob Holding so far this summer and having insisted last week that the club will not break the bank to sign players, Gazidis accepts they must target a major trophy in the new campaign. “We need to win the major titles, and we feel that pressure every day,” he told The New York Times.

“And so for us, there is a sense of disappointment and frustration that last season we finished in second place. Second place isn’t what we’re aiming for. We’re aiming to win it.

“Achieving consistency provides us with the opportunity to compete at that level and try to win it every year, and that’s obviously a good thing.

“But that’s not our objective. Our objective is to win the major trophies, and to put the club in a position where it can consistently compete for the major trophies. And I would add, very importantly for us, to do it in a way that’s consistent with our club values.”

Wenger’s current contract expires at the end of the forthcoming season but Gazidis insists it is not a naivety from the boardroom to keep faith in the 66-year-old.

“We don’t have any sense of nostalgia,” he added.

“Our support for Arsene Wenger is not based on the history of what he’s done for our football club, as extraordinary as that is.

“We’re very focused on the future. This is one of our core values is that we’re progressive and always moving forward. So what’s happened in the past is far less relevant to us as what’s happening as we look forward.

“And our support of Arsene has been strong, because we see someone who’s devoted to the club, who’s top class in the way he conducts himself, and in the way he has a positive vision for what football is and what it can be. Now, sometimes we get accused of being naive; I don’t view that as naivety.

“I think winning football, and winning it with style and grace, are core values for Arsenal, and Arsene is somebody that we believe can deliver that.”


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