Sunday, December 4, 2022

Wenger on Ozil and Alexis as he admits interest in Riyad Mahrez

Morning folks. The weather is warm here, this pleases me greatly because I feel like warm is exactly the right temperature for me. Forget this cold or chilly or freezing stuff. I know, you’re asking why a man living in Ireland would live in Ireland if this was his preference, but life is complicated … and I’m working on it.

Anyway, as we’re talking about seasons, let’s discuss the one we’re in now. Not the bitterness of winter; the fading colours of autumn; or the bloom of spring; we’re diving head-first into the cobalt blue sea of silly season. Transfer madness is already upon us, as we’ve seen this week, and even Arsene Wenger – normally a man reluctant to speak about anything related to paying money for other human beings – is a bit more forthcoming than usual.

He’s been speaking to beIN Sports, and more or less admitted interest in Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez, saying:

Have we made a bid for him? No. Not yet. Not yet means it could happen, it could not happen. I think he had a huge impact at Leicester when they won the championship, like everybody else.

It’s been a different season this year but it doesn’t take anything away from his qualities.

He was obviously very impressive in the season when Leicester won the title, much less so last time around. Of course it was unrealistic for them to maintain that level as a team, but you can’t help but wonder how much that rising tide lifted individual boats. He’s handed in a transfer request at Leicester and clearly wants to go.

It’s hard to see where he would fit into the current set-up, if we manage to keep hold of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Perhaps he’s a contingency plan if one or either of them leave, but that’s something else the manager spoke about, saying he was prepared to keep them into the final year of their contracts … unless they ‘absolutely want to leave’. I guess we all understand that’s a possibility, but I’m not sure making it that public is the best idea.

It’s not quite up there with Ivan Gazidis’s wretched ‘Ultimately Arsene Wenger is accountable to the fans’ comment, but it’s opened the door for Sanchez or Ozil to behave in a way that will, in the end, see the club acquiesce to their wishes. The players may not be willing to do that, but I wouldn’t have given them that chink of light. Maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, asked about the summer and those players, the conversation went like this:

AW: This summer, first of all, they will stay at the club and hopefully we can extend their contract.

They are not going to leave?

AW: No. You know, you cannot weaken the club and weaken the team. We want to strengthen the team…unless you find a player of the same calibre and they absolutely want to leave. I believe that at the moment we are not on that front. We are just focused on keeping the team together and see how to strengthen the team.

So as far as you’re concerned keeping Ozil and Sanchez even until the end of their contracts is not a problem?

No.

It really feels like a lot of what’s going to happen in the transfer market depends on the futures of these two players. If they leave, we need replacements. If they stay, we need to augment the squad with the requisite quality to take this team forward. But until we know one way or the other, there’s a lack of clarity about what exactly we need to do. So, the sooner they get these situations sorted the better.

In a summer when we need to see change in many aspects, dealing with this quickly and efficiently would certainly be evidence of that. Not least because we’ve been in situations before where we’ve insisted we’re going to keep key players and then let situations drag out before letting them go. Anyway, this is part of the famous pudding that we’re going to be served, so let’s see what they do and how they do it.

Right, not a lot else going on this morning. There’s the Champions League final tonight, and I will put aside my lifelong loathing of Juventus (Brady stealing twatbaskets) and hope that they can spare us another display of pectoral grotesquery from Cristiano Ronaldo tonight.

Should be fun, catch you tomorrow – and for some extra reading The Gent’s FA Cup final weekly review is well worth your time.

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