Wenger keeps faith with Arsenal's young guns

Resisting calls to buy his way to trophy success, Arsene Wenger will once again put his faith in young players and hard work on the training ground.

updated: August 14, 2009 12:01 IST
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Resisting calls to buy his way to trophy success, Arsene Wenger will once again put his faith in young players and hard work on the training ground when he prepares Arsenal for the new season.

Wenger is showing no signs of abandoning his youth project this summer, despite Arsenal having made a reported 40 million pounds ($67.7 million) from the sales of striker Emmanuel Adebayor and defender Kolo Toure to Manchester City last month and having failed to lift a trophy since the 2005 FA Cup.

The club is on the brink of generating yet more money from the widely expected departure of Philippe Senderos to Everton.

The manager, however, has made only one signing - defender Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax for a reported 10 million pounds and that was before the City sales. Midfielder Samir Nasri will be out for up to three months after breaking a bone in his right leg during training.

But Wenger feels no pressure to panic buy, stressing his faith in the current squad.

"I feel we are strong enough, but if we can add then we will do it," Wenger said. "In England, people think that all the problems can be sorted out by buying players.

"I believe the biggest target is to work hard in training, improve what we can improve and have confidence in the players that we have. If we need to add then we will. We have money available so for us it is now important to spend it in the right way when we do it, or if we do it."

Wenger, however, seems poised to do something he hasn't done in his 13 years at Arsenal - bring back a player he has let go.

Wenger is considering re-signing former captain Patrick Vieira from Inter Milan. Vieira, 33, would also be Wenger's oldest signing.

"Patrick is a great player," Wenger said. "It is a possibility I have to think about."

Vieira's return would be mostly of symbolic value and a psychological boost to a dressing room criticized for lacking leadership. Vieira captained the "Invincibles" team that won the Premier League in 2004 without losing a game. Toure was the last of that group and his departure spelled the end of an era.

Vieira's final act for Arsenal was to score the winning spot-kick in a penalty shootout which decided that 2005 FA Cup final against Manchester United and his return would add bulk to a midfield lambasted as having a soft underbelly.

Wenger endured his most difficult year at Arsenal last season with a small but vocal minority calling for him to change his ways or leave. Arsenal spent several weeks in fifth place, facing the threat of losing out on a Champions League place before finishing in fourth, and the team was criticized for lacking spine.

Wenger was reportedly confronted by angry fans at a meeting before the season ended and felt insulted. The situation turned so sour that a group of fans held a march on the final day of the season urging him to stay after reports linked him to Real Madrid.

There have been other tensions off the pitch. In July, Arsenal announced that the board had rejected No. 2 shareholder Alisher Usmanov's proposals to raise 60 million pounds through a rights issue to strengthen the squad and reduce the club's debt.

Usmanov responded by doubting whether Arsenal has the financial resources to produce a team that can win a trophy.

Wenger has shrugged off the sale of Adebayor and Nasri's injury as minor inconveniences, saying he has sufficient attacking options, including a full first season for attacking midfielder Andrei Arshavin, who arrived in January and wasn't eligible to play in the Champions League for Arsenal last season.

Arsenal has had a strong preseason, highlighted by the comeback of midfielder Tomas Rosicky from injuries that kept him sidelined for nearly 18 months and striker Eduardo da Silva's return to form after recovering from a horrific leg break in February 2008.

The emergence of 17-year-old Jack Wilshere as a pacy and strong winger has also created a buzz. The players have not been dismayed by criticism over the past few seasons, with many predicting this could be their year.

"I think it's going to be quite a big season," striker Nicklas Bendtner said. "I see this as my breakthrough season. ... I think what we're trying to build here is going to be really big. I think this season could be a season where we reach our goals."