Football: Luzhny is `good buy' for Wenger

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The Independent Online
THE ARSENAL manager, Arsene Wenger, yesterday warned of the physical demands of next season's new-look Champions' League as he unveiled the first of his new signings.

At one time, the arrival of the Dynamo Kiev right-back Oleg Luzhny at Highbury would have heralded the beginning of the end for the old Arsenal defence that has been in situ since the 1980s.

But Lee Dixon need not start sweating quite yet. The expanded Champions' League will mean European action every week rather than once a fortnight, and Wenger - who tended to remain loyal to the same core of 14 players in last season's campaigns - believes he will now have to start rotating his squad. The Frenchman believes clubs will need between 16 and 18 players of comparable quality to achieve any success, and further signings should be expected this summer.

"No one can really evaluate the influence of a weekly European game on the Premiership," he said. "Rotation of the squad will be a necessity. It will be very physically demanding and there will be more competition for places."

Wenger had to fight off interest from Newcastle United and Middlesbrough to get Luzhny for what is believed to be a knockdown price of around pounds 1.8m. Both North-east clubs had been led to believe that they had agreed a deal for the 30-year-old Kiev captain, but Luzhny's attraction to the bright lights of London tipped the scales in Arsenal's favour. "Oleg is an important addition to our squad. He is a quality defender with vast experience at both international and club levels," Wenger added. "It is imperative that we continue to strengthen the squad and Oleg's undoubted ability will make him a great asset to the club. He is the first signing to strengthen our squad."

The Ukrainian international, who will join Arsenal for pre-season training in July, can also play in midfield. "He's a top quality player and the price was right," he said. "We have money available for spending but what is important is not how much you spend but how good the players are you buy. Our squad is very good so the only signings now who are useful are those who are at the same level."

Despite being well-placed, Arsenal were eventually pipped to the Premiership title by the treble-winners Manchester United for the Premiership and Wenger believes Alex Ferguson's shuffling of his pack of players was about right.

"Manchester United did not have too many players. You need to have the right number - about 16 or 18 - but all of top quality."

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