So who did Arsene almost sign?

ARSENE WENGER left tantalised Arsenal fans frustrated and none the wiser last night when he refused to reveal the star player he “very, very nearly” signed on the eve of Monday’s transfer deadline.

The Gunners manager confirmed he was working throughout Monday to bring in a new player before the deadline expired.

“We did (try to sign someone), yes,” he said. “I do not like to lie and I do not like to put any player in a difficult position at the club where he is at the moment, so I’ll say nothing about it.”

When asked if it was a striker he replied: “I leave you the freedom to guess.”

The news came as a surprise given that, in the build up to the window closing, he had suggested he would not be making any acquisition.

“In England, it seems all the problems are sorted out by buying players,” he said. “But I do not believe that. If you look really well at the European market during January this year, very little happened. There was no big transfer.

“That means it is impossible to find players who are available, walk in off the street and can play at the top level.

“I said we have too many players when they are all back but that has never been the case this year.

“Everyone advises you to buy but, at the end of the month, you have to pay the wages and across Europe at the moment you can buy 50 clubs if you have enough money because they have financial problems.

“We manage the club within our financial resources and when you listen to people you always have to buy five or six players. But at the end of the day you have to pay them.”

Wenger urged his players to express themselves and play with freedom at Stamford Bridge tomorrow – because no one expected them to challenge for the title this season.

Wenger felt his players were inhibited during last Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United and wants them to play without fear tomorrow.

“I believe we should be more relaxed at this time because at the start of the season nobody expected us in the top four or in the title race,” he said. “Now, instead of being intimidated, I believe we have to really have a go because we are entitled to have it.

“The biggest regret I have from Sunday (against United) is that we gave them too much freedom and allowed them too much to play in a game where we should have been dictating.

“My players wanted it so much that sometimes you can be a little bit restricted and our target is to get that freedom to play in this game [against Chelsea].”

The Frenchman’s side travel to Stamford Bridge knowing a defeat would leave them nine points behind the Premier League leaders. However, victory would see the Gunners cut the gap with Chelsea to just three points.

“We are six points off the (Premier League) leaders with 14 games to go. We are in a strong position and we have qualified for the Champions League (knockout stages).

“We are in a very healthy financial situation and we have a very young team compared to the others. You can always be pessimistic, or you can always be optimistic. But if you analyse our situation realistically, you have many reasons to be optimistic.”


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