Gunners gear up for title chase

LONDON — Arsene Wenger has confirmed Arsenal are closing in on their first signing of the January window, believed to be Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny.

“We hope to announce a player in the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said after Arsenal’s 3-1 FA Cup win over Sunderland on Saturday. “I don’t need to tell you the name.”

In fact, Wenger could be splashing the cash on THREE top midfielders this month.

With Elneny incoming, the Daily Star now suggest that the Gunners are preparing to go all out to sign Borussia Monchengladbach star Granit Xhaka and Paris Saint-Germain rebel Adrien Rabiot.

Swiss international Xhaka, 23, will reportedly cost a whopping £37 million, while Rabiot could move for around £15 million.

The paper also claimed that the mother of Rabiot, 20, who is also his agent, was in London at the weekend to discuss a potential move to the Gunners.

Rabiot publicly declared that he wanted to leave PSG earlier this season forcing his own fans to boo him during a league fixture.

Xhaka, meanwhile, is reportedly wanted by a host of Premier League clubs.

Wenger also said he is not concerned that a hectic period of fixtures could derail his team’s bid for glory on multiple fronts this season.

The Frenchman rested a number of players, including Mesut Ozil, for Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie with Sunderland, which Arsenal won 3-1 courtesy of goals from Joel Campbell, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud.

Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky are all currently sidelined, but Wenger is confident that his squad has sufficient depth to cope.

“There’s a little bit of concern,” said Wenger, whose side are bidding to win the FA Cup for the third season in succession.

“But I believe that the next step is to get Rosicky back, Welbeck back, Sanchez back, Wilshere back and maybe we’ll get one player in (during the January transfer window).

“Overall, we’ve no new injuries so I’m not worried. If we had the same number of injuries, we would be a bit short.”

Arsenal, English Premier League leaders, visit Liverpool on Wednesday, but Wenger resisted the temptation to rest all his first-choice picks, as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp did in his side’s 2-2 draw at Exeter City on Friday.

But teenage midfielder Alex Iwobi was handed a rare start and the Nigerian made the most of the opportunity.

“I liked the timing of his passes,” Wenger said.

“In the middle of the park that’s a vital quality, and the fact he plays forward and sees things. As a young boy he’s not afraid to take people on and that isn’t easy.”

Sam Allardyce, the Sunderland manager, made seven changes compared with Wenger’s five and once again voiced his anger that his side must play three away games in the space of a week.

They take on fellow strugglers Swansea City on Wednesday in a game that was moved from tomorrow at the request of the Welsh club, who had a lunchtime FA Cup date with Oxford United yesterday.

“I’ll be very interested in seeing Swansea’s team tomorrow (yesterday) and see how many first-team players they actually play,” said Allardyce, who saw Jeremain Lens open the scoring at the Emirates Stadium.

“We could’ve played on Tuesday, which gave us the right opportunity to recover to play in the Premier League on Saturday, which is a 12.45pm kick-off against Tottenham, having travelled 1,800 miles for three away games.”

Allardyce also hit back at the Premier League’s claims that this week’s mid-week fixtures could not have been played at another point in the season.

“So how do all of Europe get away with it then?” he asked. “How do all of Europe have a break for Christmas and we can’t?

“The very least for the full recovery of a player is a minimum of four days at our level of football today. It promotes more and more injuries and more and more criticism, because people say they aren’t performing as well as they should do.

“Well, they can’t do because they’re running on empty. You’re not getting the entertainment level you want because the players are physically and mentally drained.

“‘They get that much money, it shouldn’t bother them,’ you all say, but that’s rubbish. The players take the dosh, but at the end of the day we’ve to follow Europe in everything we do, don’t we?

“We’ve to follow the transfer system. We had our own system years ago and were told we can’t do that. We’ve been made to scrap the emergency loan system next year, even though nobody wants to do that in this country and it’ll be very harmful. So why aren’t we made to have a break, if we follow Europe all the time?”

Meanwhile, Arsenal have announced that they are freezing their season ticket prices for next season.

The Gunners hold the title for the most expensive season ticket on offer, totalling £2,013, while their cheapest ticket of £1,014 is also a high for the division.

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis has revealed that Arsenal are aiming to continually sell out the Emirates Stadium, hence why they are freezing their prices for the seventh time in 11 years.

“We’ve incredible home support with sell-out crowds for every game,” he

“This decision reflects our on-going aim to maintain a fair and balanced approach to our ticket pricing.” — AFP.

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