Arsène Wenger coy over Edinson Cavani as Arsenal plan to spend big

Wenger Statue

Arsène Wenger has admitted his interest in Edinson Cavani but he suggested that a January move for the Napoli striker would be out of the question, despite his readiness to spend serious money during the transfer window.

The Arsenal manager's priority is to secure Theo Walcott to a long-term contract and after a painstaking process, the indications are that the forward is ready to sign. Wenger said he hoped the deal could be concluded before the team's Premier League visit to Chelsea on Sunday. There is a possibility that an announcement could be made on Friday. "My optimism is at 99% now," he said.

Wenger has said that he will look to make a new signing once Walcott is tied down but he denied that he had bid for the Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha or Cavani. The latter has spearheaded Napoli's Serie A title challenge; his 16 league goals have helped the team to third place, where they trail the leaders Juventus by five points.

"I like him as a player," Wenger said. "Will he cost a lot of money? That's for sure. Nobody would deny that. Our banker lives just next to me at the moment and he is ready if we find the right player.

"We can spend the money that we have decided to spend if it is for a player we think gives us a plus. But I do not want to speak about Cavani because we have not made an inquiry for him.

"You speak about Cavani … Napoli are playing for the championship and the Champions League [places] in Italy. What is the interest of Napoli to sell Cavani? None. Unless you come there and say, 'OK, we pay twice the price of what the player is worth'."

Wenger admitted that he preferred to sign players during the summer window and he said that he had identified targets for then. "We can strengthen everywhere," he added. "You can come out of any game and think [that]. We gave away cheap goals against Manchester City [on Sunday]. At the moment, it is more important that the team remains focused. If we find something, we will do it."

The Walcott situation has been one of the off-field sideshows for Arsenal this season but Wenger spoke with conviction as the endgame approached. "I was scared at some stage, yes, that he could leave because it is like that with the experience I have in negotiations," Wenger said. "When things last too long, it is never a good sign. In this case, it took us some time to get to where we want to get. It is still not finalised but, hopefully, it will be done by this weekend."

Wenger, meanwhile, has heard support for his methods from David Dein, the former Arsenal vice-chairman, who recruited him in 1996. "I find it very hurtful [when Arsenal fans question Wenger]," said Dein, who admitted that "every day," he missed his involvement at the club. "It's the old story – people have got short memories. They seem to forget what Arsène has achieved for the club.

"Arsenal are respected around the world, and much of that is because of what Arsène Wenger has achieved: the results and the players he has brought in and developed. If you're a football supporter, you have to be optimistic but it's about getting the right talent. Clearly, as we've seen this season, Arsène knows where he needs to improve the squad and I'm sure he will – if he gets the opportunity or if the talent is there. It's not easy to find.

"The fans today, understandably so, want trophies. They want a winning team. Historically Arsène has delivered phenomenal success and on a very tight budget I always used to call him the miracle worker but the fans understandably want success today."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by David Hytner and Daniel Taylor, for The Guardian on Thursday 17th January 2013 23.00 Europe/London

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