Wenger’s wordplay hints at imminent Arsenal bid for Benzema


If there is one manager who appears to have less time than most for the obligatory transfer bluster that accompanies this time of year, then it’s Arsene Wenger.

If media duties and expectations were dictated by the Arsenal boss, there can be little doubt that he would discuss almost nothing of a target until the player was pictured beside him holding a newly-numbered red shirt.

And who can blame him, given that protracted transfer sagas in Wenger’s time have usually involved a high-profile departure: Nicolas Anelka, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas, to name but a few.

It means that when Wenger does discuss potential incomings, you can be sure that a man with a formidable grasp of the English language will use his words wisely.

So it’s telling that following tabloid reports linking Arsenal to an imminent bid for long-time target Karim Benzema, Wenger responded with: “I don’t know where that story has come from. But that’s not happening at the moment.”

On the surface, it may seem a standard attempt to play down this annual rumour. But those final three little words are key. “At the moment” suggests that even if a bid has not yet been tabled, Benzema is very much on Wenger’s radar this summer.

With new Real Madrid boss Rafa Benitez understood to be happy to sell the French striker, a fee of between £35-40m will bring to an end Benzema’s six years at the Bernabeu.

As we discussed yesterday, Gonzalo Higuain is another striker that seems perennially linked to a move to north London, further adding weight to the school of thought that Wenger is in the market for a forward in the mould of a traditional number nine.

While this would provide some competition for forwards Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and a fatigued Alexis Sanchez, Benzema’s arrival would be seen more as a direct challenge to Olivier Giroud, given their similar playing style and qualities.

Although the comparison is somewhat skewed by the fact they’ve been playing in different countries, the fact remains that Giroud has failed to outscore Benzema in any of the last five seasons in their respective leagues.

And given that Giroud is viewed as Benzema’s understudy for the French national team, Gunners fans would no doubt see such a signing as something of an upgrade as the 9/2 third favourites look to maintain their first concerted title challenge this decade.

Of course, this is Wenger we’re talking about, and there could be another reason for his choice of words.

Following 19-year-old Chuba Akpom’s hat-trick in a recent 4-0 friendly win over a Singapore XI, the Gunners boss might simply be happy “at the moment” to put his faith in the undoubted promise of the youth at his disposal.

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