Football: Very average start to EPL for Arsenal so far, concedes Wenger

Petr Cech shows his pedigree by saving at point-blank range from Christian Benteke. The goalkeeper also deprived Philippe Coutinho of getting his second goal of the season.
Petr Cech shows his pedigree by saving at point-blank range from Christian Benteke. The goalkeeper also deprived Philippe Coutinho of getting his second goal of the season.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Gunners have 4 pts after 3 games, Neville and Henry say midfield and attack need beefing up

LONDON • Arsene Wenger has rejected Gary Neville's stinging criticism that his inability to sign "players of power" to propel an Arsenal title challenge over the last decade was born of arrogance but conceded his side's start to the season has been distinctly unexceptional.

An entertaining goalless draw with Liverpool left the Gunners scoreless in five of their past six Premier League games at the Emirates Stadium.

Their clean sheet was secured only by two instinctive saves by man-of-the-match Petr Cech.

Liverpool's was thanks to an Aaron Ramsey first-half goal wrongly ruled out for offside.

Neville's pre-match observations in his capacity as a pundit for Sky Sports still seemed pertinent. The England coach had pinpointed Wenger's failure to sign a combative midfielder to support his creative attackers.

"It's arrogance," said the former England and Manchester United defender. "To think that you are not going to adapt your team, to impact on the other teams that you're playing against and their strengths.

"It is naive or arrogance.

"It is a misheld belief."

Those comments were put to Wenger. "Look, I don't know what that has to do with arrogance," said the manager. "I try just to do my job well for 20 years. I leave judgment to everybody else, the assessment of the quality of my work.

"Everybody is entitled to that opinion. When you don't win, you're wrong and people find reasons. Are they good reasons? I have enough experience to know when it's right and when it's wrong.

"Sharpness is missing a bit... We have started very average, I must concede, with four points after two home games. And, at this moment, we have not scored (at home)."

Most of the goalscoring burden is on Olivier Giroud but the Frenchman has netted only once in his last 10 league games.

Wenger was handed more bad news when striker Karim Benzema, Arsenal's main transfer target, insisted that he had no plans to leave Real Madrid.

"For all those clowns who want to make believe things at my fans. Here this is my home!" he wrote in a tweet that included a picture of him in the Bernabeu dressing room.

With just days to go until the Sept 1 transfer deadline, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry said this is a "massive week" as he urged his former club to spend. "Are they going to buy someone up front or in the middle of the park? They were missing a lot of players tonight; they still need a holding midfielder and they still need a striker," said the pundit for Sky Sports.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, without the injured Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana in his own ranks, drew satisfaction from the point and a third successive clean sheet in the league.

"Our performance level is improving all the time," he said after watching Cech deny Christian Benteke from close range and tip a Philippe Coutinho shot on to a post.

"The focus is very much on the football element with my teams, but anyone who has followed my career will know the intensity of how we press and the cohesion as a team. That was something that drifted last season, for sure. So it was important that, defensively, we were super-organised. That will be the platform for us going forward."

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2015, with the headline 'Very average so far, says Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe