Wenger won't go on the attack after cash injection
Aston Villa 0 Arsenal 0For most managers news of a major sponsorship deal, bringing with it a fresh injection of transfer funds, might induce a degree of renewed acquisitive ambition, or at the very least some pre-January giddiness.
Not so Arsene Wenger, whose vague sense of embattlement at the hands of a section of support desperate for some headline recruitment has led, if anything, to a more entrenched retreat into steady as-she-goes.
There was only the mildest of protests from the travelling Arsenal support during the 0-0 draw at Villa Park, sparked by Wenger’s decision to withdraw the striker Olivier Giroud in the 86th minute and replace him with midfielder Francis Coquelin (albeit Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation stayed the same).
“Attack attack attack,” chanted fans, and briefly, “we want our Arsenal back”.
They might have been better saving their wrath for the sight of Andrey Arshavin stopping on the edge of the penalty area in the dying seconds as Arsenal attacked to crouch down and tie his shoelace – a bizarre interlude in a match that fizzled soggily without catching fire.
Villa, for whom the substitute Brett Holman hit the bar, will take greater heart from a point that lifted them outside the relegation spots for the night.
Afterwards Wenger offered only a sigh of masterly indifference when asked about the implications of the extended £150 million deal with Emirates. “I would just like to tell you that means if people invest more money in us that means they believe in us,” he said. It’s first a credit for what we do and how we do things. And after that we will like always try to use this money intelligently.”
Is it nice that someone, at least, thinks he knows what he’s doing?
“Not so much. I’ve only managed 1,600 games, 200 Champions League games. So I suppose I’m a bit lucky.”
Arsenal mustered just a single shot on target at Villa Park, and Wenger believed his team were tired after a strenuous week. Most notably he was quick to defend Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“He lacks a bit of physical fitness,” Wenger said. “But today he was in patches dangerous. He’s learning his job, he’s a very talented young boy. Basically he’s 19 years old, but I believe he will be a great player. You need patience with every young player, or you don’t bring them out. I believe that’s why it’s so difficult in our job where you see the demands of people.”
Chamberlain repeatedly came inside when he might have tested Enda Stevens on the outside, but there were some nice weaving runs and when he did cross from wide positions Arsenal looked at their most dangerous.
Jack Wilshere took no part at all having suffered “an inflammation” .
Also absent was Darren Bent, Aston Villa’s £18 million record signing, again left out of the squad with Paul Lambert offering nothing much more than “if I could pick everybody I would” and “the most important thing is Aston Villa football club” by way of explanation.
If Bent’s days at Villa seem numbered there was encouragement to be taken in an energetic and tactically coherent performance, with Andreas Weimann a threat on the left and Christian Benteke prodigiously physical in attack.
“They’re young and they’re going to make mistakes,” Lambert said. “But it’s a long project.
The performances are encouraging and the future is looking good.”