Tim Sherwood column: Arsene Wenger's decision not to sign a holding midfielder was a vote of confidence for his Arsenal squad

The stance will go down well with his players

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The Independent Football

There is another side to the clamour from supporters to buy players that gets louder and louder towards the end of a transfer window, and that is the effect that it has within the dressing room among the existing squad.

When there is pressure on a manager to buy, his own players watch very closely. When a manager says he needs new players it can have a very negative effect on the dressing room. If he says he requires new signings, he has to make sure he can get them. Otherwise, he has to go back to players who feel as if they were previously unwanted.

The manager can go the other way and back his own players, and resist the pressure to buy. That can go down badly with the fans. If a manager does resist then, in private, that is regarded by his own players as a huge confidence booster. Clearly, there are times when even the dressing room knows that the club need to make a signing. But generally it is a difficult balance to strike.

Arsène Wenger’s decision not to buy a defensive holding midfielder will be regarded inside Arsenal as a vote of confidence in his existing players, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby  (who played for the club’s Under-21s on Thursday night) as well as Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere.

Sami Khedira was available at the end of August, and while his injury record might have put Arsenal off, the mood is that Wenger decided he was happy with what he had in that department.

As they face Manchester City today that will mean a lot to the Arsenal players. In recent years, Wenger has not picked the classic “destroyer” kind of midfielder. Arsenal have players who do that defensive role in front of the back four but they tend to be better passers of the ball than the archetypal holding midfielder.



There was one position Arsenal could not afford to ignore when it came to strengthening. At £16m, Danny Welbeck was a steal. It is ridiculously little money for a 23-year-old England striker. He is perfect for Arsenal.

I have written before in this column about footballers who are willing to run without the ball. Adam Lallana is one who makes those runs from midfield. Welbeck is another, albeit from a more advanced position. It is becoming increasingly rare in modern times to find players who are willing to do all that running. It is a very unselfish quality.

It is very hard for an opponent to squeeze up and pressure the ball when they are playing against a striker like Welbeck. His pace on the turn will  always make opponents vulnerable to a ball played over the top. He can occupy two centre-halves.

Arsenal have a lot of gifted players who like the ball to their feet. Welbeck is different and will allow them to move up the pitch quicker. Once they are around the opponent’s ‘D’ there is no better team at weaving a way through.

When Welbeck makes runs, he will stretch opponents and that will give players like Wilshere, Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla the space to play in. Along with Alexis Sanchez, he is also among the best strikers in the game at winning the ball back high up the pitch. Welbeck will be a key player for Arsenal in creating space for their midfielders, but he will also get opportunities to score goals.

United’s policy has changed – they are now galacticos

In their recent history Manchester United have never sold a promising academy-produced player before they felt they had got his best years. The Welbeck deal surprised me in that way. United’s off-field philosophy has changed.

They are the new English galacticos. The signings of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria have changed the culture completely. These are some of the best players in the world, and there is a part of every supporter that would love to see their own team do the same. Even so, I find it hard to see the logic in selling your own good academy players.

United’s problem with Welbeck is that they have sold to a rival. Realistically, it will be Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool with whom they will be competing for a Champions League place this season.

United wanted to sign Gareth Bale when he left Spurs 13 months ago. The Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, had decided by then that he did not want to sell the club’s best players to a Premier League rival. It had been the same with Luka Modric.

When I was a player at Blackburn Rovers, our owner Jack Walker took the same view. Manchester United tried to buy Alan Shearer from us in the summer of 1993 after his first season at the club. Jack told United the deal was on – as long as they sold him Eric Cantona. He knew Blackburn could not sell their best players to a title rival.

Southampton and QPR’s new men are worth watching

I am looking forward to seeing how Sadio Mané gets on at Southampton, an £11.8m signing from Red Bull Salzburg. I watched him play in Amsterdam against Ajax in the Europa League last season and he scored in a 3-0 first-leg win. He has lightning pace and is a bit of a maverick. He can play wide in the attacking three or down the middle. He has potential to do well in the Premier League.

It was not that long ago that there were some big-money offers from around Europe for Sandro, the Brazilian midfielder who has now joined Queen’s Park Rangers.

He is a good signing for a club like QPR. He works hard at breaking up the play and he can be effective. The worry is that he gets injured a lot. I hope, for his and QPR’s sake, he stays fit.

England prosper with pace but need partner for Cahill

After England lost to Uruguay at the World Cup finals and, a day later, were eliminated from the tournament, I wrote that there was still plenty to look forward to at Euro 2016. The win over Switzerland on Monday did nothing to change my mind.

There are some very promising players in that squad and they are going to get better between now and 2016. When that pace is released on the counter-attack, the likes of Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Theo Walcott and Welbeck can be devastating.

Between then and now, I think Roy Hodgson will have to rely on a centre-back coming through to play alongside Gary Cahill; in particular a defender capable of passing the ball well.

I would back Steven Caulker to develop that way, as well as Eric Dier. Phil Jones and Calum Chambers will improve and gain much more experience between now and qualifying.