2006-08-22

Wenger talks about Gallas interest

The Gunners' manager, Arsene Wenger, thinks William Gallas would fit right in at Arsenal - and accepts his squad will seem "a bit light" should Ashley Cole leave and nobody replace the England player when the transfer window shuts.

As we know, the future of Ashley Cole remains uncertain despite his clear desire to leave and Wenger's willingness to let the 25-year-old go.

In fact, conversations between Arsenal and Chelsea have seemingly hit an impasse over the size of the transfer fee.

And while Wenger remains confident of strengthening his squad ahead of the end of the month, he would allow Cole to leave even if he were unable to bring in a replacement.

But with a firm offer put into the Premiership champions for versatile French defender Gallas, 29, the possibility remains it could just yet turn into a busy few days of negotiations between the two London rivals.

Wenger admitted that he likes his football: "I like the fact he (Gallas) is a good defender. He can play right-back, left-back, centre-back. And we want the player because we made an offer for him. That is clear. But we have not spoken to the player yet.

"You need to agree personal terms. We have a salary cap here and he comes from a club with no salary cap. I do not know if it is possible to agree personal terms and agree with Chelsea."

"If he comes here, frankly, he will have to come for less money."

"Sure we can make one exception (Thierry Henry) - but we cannot make five or six."

Wenger would not be drawn into whether he would be open to any swap deal involving the pair - and insisted: "William Gallas is not the only player we have a chance of getting.

"There is always a lot happening in the last few days - but he is a player we have a chance to get.

"I think he wants to leave Chelsea, Ashley Cole wants to leave us."

Wenger accepts the situation is far from ideal as he prepares for what is set to be another hectic domestic and European campaign, with the second leg of Arsenal's Champions League qualifier against Dinamo Zagreb tomorrow night.

He expressed: "It does not affect me because I am used to that, but I feel at some stage, you want to sort things out so your team focuses completely on what you want to achieve."

Wenger reflected: "If Cole was completely focused, and ready to go with us or if someone else with experience comes in, I feel we are strong enough and experienced enough."

He added: "We lost a lot of experienced players over the summer. The weight on the experienced players like Henry, Gilberto and Lehmann is stronger this year.

"So, they have a little bit more to carry. Last year, it was a bit more shared because when somebody had a little doubt they could speak with Pires or Bergkamp or with Campbell.

"In the end, we had a bit more weight in the dressing room. And of course, the responsibility of our experienced players is bigger than ever."

Arsenal only got a 1-1 draw in Premier League opener

It was not a good game for the Gunners. A late equaliser by Gilberto gave Arsenal a 1-1 draw with a surprising Aston Villa in the first ever game at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Olof Mellberg gave Villa the lead on 53 minutes, but incessant pressure and a first-team debut by Theo Walcott saw Gilberto level with four minutes remaining.

Since it was not a good result, Wenger blamed it on a lack of sharpness at the start of a new season, saying "the players were not completely ready physically, added to the fact that many of them played 90 minutes in midweek."

In fact, Arsenal kept the ball and created chances, but there was always a Villa player ready and willing to block anything Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and the impressive Emanuel Eboue threw at them.

When Thomas Sorensen was called into action early on he was similarly effective, saving well at the near post from Eboue - acting like a winger for much of the game - while a well-positioned J'Lloyd Samuel turned the ball off the line when Emanuel Adebayor had done everything right with his downward header into the bottom corner.

Villa had to be content hitting Arsenal on the break, which was threat enough with the pace and directness of Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Moore and Gabriel Agbonlahor supporting from the flanks.

It's important to say that Arsenal made all the chances though, slick one-touch play unfortunately unmatched by anything approaching top-class finishing. Adebayor only impressive in fits and starts with Henry drifting wide and deep for much of the encounter.

It actually took Villa's opener to spark Arsenal into life, Mellberg rising above Jens Lehmann to head home a corner on 53 minutes, one of their few clear-cut opportunities in this game.

Arsenal became truly threatening after the introduction of Theo Walcott for his first-team debut, the expected debut for the last 20 minutes and tearing holes into Aaron Hughes with his pace and touch.

His presence also allowed French star Henry to move inside, the usual support in width absent on account of Juan Antonio Reyes protracted on-off move to Real Madrid.

It's fair to mention that Walcott had a key role in the equaliser, turning Hughes inside and out before chipping a delicate cross to Robin van Persie, whose glancing header fell to Gilberto, the Brazilian lashing a half-volley into the roof of the net on 84 minutes.

Even though they kept on attacking, The Gunners were unable to find another goal and start the 2006/7 season and life at their new stadium without a victory.