Arsene Wenger has again insisted that there will be no movement in the transfer window until after the World Cup this summer. With Arsenal having already secured their place in the Champions League, thoughts at the Emirates are already turning toward next season and what they can do to prevent their title challenge slipping away as it did this campaign.
Wenger, who broke the club’s transfer record with the signing of Mesut Ozil last summer, is again expected to have significant funds at his disposal to strengthen his squad. However, he suggested that fans will have to be patient.
“Honestly, in my experience in a World Cup year, it [business] has never been done early," he said, according to Arsenal’s official website. “Everybody is focused on the World Cup. At the moment you can do nothing because the season is not over. We are today, the 8th of May. The 12th of June is the first World Cup game.
“The Champions League final is on the 24th of May and basically two weeks later it is the start of the World Cup. It is unbelievable. There is no time between the end of the season and the start of the World Cup. Nobody will do anything before the World Cup starts.”
The distraction of the World Cup has not stopped the speculation over the names that rest on Arsenal’s wanted list. Featuring prominently among Wenger’s thoughts is widely believed to be adding a defensive midfielder. Mikel Arteta has been badly exposed in that role in Arsenal’s heavy defeats away at Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton. Although Mathieu Flamini showed the benefits of a natural player in that role earlier in the season, he has been used less regularly of late.
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The Telegraph has reported that Arsenal have made an inquiry for Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez. The Spain international enjoyed a fine first season following his massive €40 million (£32.7m) move from Athletic Bilbao, but has been a less integral figure under Pep Guardiola. Only partly due to injuries, Martinez has made only 13 starts in the Bundesliga this season, with many coming at center-back. The 25-year-old has the physicality and passing ability to make him a natural at the heart of Arsenal’s midfield, although there remains little chance of Bayern allowing him to leave at a loss.
The Telegraph also believes that Arsenal are considering making another approach for long-standing target Lars Bender. The Gunners had a bid of around £19 million rejected for the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder last summer. Bender, who has also operated at right-back, has been named in Germany’s provisional squad for the World Cup and is almost certain to go to Brazil. However, Bender’s latest comments suggest that Arsenal could be disappointed once more.
"I signed my new contract until 2019, and that should have told everyone how happy I am at Leverkusen,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.
"I feel settled here and see no reason to change anything. In fact, if I am to be completely honest, I haven’t had an overly brilliant season and don’t feel ready yet to take on a pivotal role at a big club somewhere else.
"I need to keep working on my game, and I am going to do that here at Leverkusen. That suits me, and I am happy with that."
Leverkusen also look set to scupper Arsenal’s hopes of landing another target. It has been widely reported that Nurnberg’s Josip Drmic was an option Wenger was considering to increase his striker options, but German publication Bild is now claiming that the scorer of 16 Bundesliga goals is instead posed to join Leverkusen.