Wenger upbeat but rivals' spending scares him

SAN JOSE (California) • Most people would consider a visit to California in July a holiday. For Arsene Wenger, such a trip is anything but.

Arsenal began a stretch of two friendlies within 72 hours on Thursday by defeating Major League Soccer's All-Stars 2-1 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, and they face Guadalajara tomorrow in Los Angeles.

The end game, however, remains the same: ending the 12-year wait for an English Premier League title.

Wenger thinks his squad have what it takes, but railed at the transfer spending of some of their rivals, describing it as "scary".

"I personally believe that no matter what you do, it's never enough," the Arsenal manager said.

"In the Premier League, every club is hugely ambitious. With the cheques that everybody signs, it's quite scary. But I believe we know what we have to do."

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has already spurned the advances of the north London club in favour of extending his stay at the King Power Stadium, while Lyon said they rejected a £29 million (S$51.6 million) bid for Alexandre Lacazette.

Arsenal target Gonzalo Higuain left Napoli for Serie A rivals Juventus in a deal worth €90 million (S$135.22 million).

On Thursday, England Under-21 striker Chuba Akpom pounced three minutes from time, as Arsenal snatched victory in an entertaining game.

Joel Campbell had fired the Gunners into the lead with an 11th-minute penalty, but that goal was cancelled out as the MLS All-Stars levelled through former Chelsea star Didier Drogba on the stroke of half-time.

Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka and defender Rob Holding both made their debuts for the English side.

Xhaka, a £30 million signing from Borussia Monchengladbach, played the entire second half.

"He has adjusted very well," Wenger said. "His passing was clean and he did well with his technique."

Holding, Bolton's player of the season as they were relegated from the Championship, played the entire match with the 18-year-old Krystian Bielik in central defence.

"He has adapted surprisingly well," Wenger said of the 20-year-old Holding.

"He reads the game well and understands what's going on at such a young age."

Playing against a squad that included such notables as Andrea Pirlo, Drogba, David Villa and Kaka offers its own challenges and opportunities - even in a friendly.

"The contact is a bit less strong," the Frenchman said. "But you had top-quality players on the pitch together, and you feel that every time you make a mistake, they can take advantage of you.

"What is important in this kind of game is to analyse what we do well. In the first half, we did well in keeping possession and going very quickly on transitions behind, and had good penetrating runs in the final third."

Yestrday, Spanish side Atletico Madrid edged out Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in a friendly, with Uruguayan defender Diego Godin's goal making the difference.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger upbeat but rivals' spending scares him'. Print Edition | Subscribe