Arsène Wenger says Arsenal are close to bridging gap with Europe's best

Manager vows he will spend in the summer and does not rule out £40m bid for Falcao

Arsène Wenger has insisted that Arsenal are "not far away" from being as good as Bayern Munich, as he painted an optimistic image of the club's future at the end of a traumatic week.

Home defeats to Blackburn Rovers and Bayern Munich almost certainly mean an eighth consecutive season without a trophy but Wenger was in a positive mood yesterday morning, and said that Arsenal are now "in a stronger situation" financially to keep their best players and bring in high quality.

Wenger was sufficiently confident about Arsenal's current level and their future prospects to say that they are within reaching distance of the team that so outclassed them at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday evening.

"It costs a lot of money, it costs intelligent work," Wenger said when asked what was needed to make up ground. "We are not so far when people think at the moment from Bayern. We need to be intelligent and strong in this period and keep a guideline of what we have done until now. Strengthen the team where in the positions we feel we are a bit weaker. But we have a basis of a team that is very strong for me."

Wenger believes Arsenal have a foundation from which to challenge Europe's best although he did seem to accept some who saw Tuesday's game might not agree.

"We are not far away," Wenger said. "It is difficult to convince you today. We have to be clever. I believe in some areas of our team we can compete with anybody in the world. We speak about the Wilsheres, the Cazorlas and we have a very strong technical basis but we have to be more efficient."

Arsenal have been outspent for years by their European rivals but Wenger said he was newly able to invest, with new commercial and kit deals coming next year, where appropriate. "I think, now, we are in a stronger situation where, like you say, we can spend some money," Wenger confirmed. "We went out to spend money at Christmas but we didn't find the players. If we find tomorrow a player of top, top, top quality, we will take him."

When asked whether Arsenal might be able to spend as much as £40m on a player like Radamel Falcao, Wenger confirmed it. "We can do it. If we can afford it, we will not say no."

Wenger denied he had a natural aversion to spending money. "I'm not reluctant to spend," he said. "First of all, we only had money recently. Secondly, in England there is a way of thinking that every problem is sorted out just by spending money but that's not always the case."

Now able to spend more, Wenger was confident Arsenal would be able to keep their good young players. "Yes, of course," he said when asked if Arsenal might be able to resist potential buyers. "You can only keep your best players, let's be realistic, by paying the wages of the market."

Wenger does not anticipate any departure for Jack Wilshere, who recently signed a new long-term deal. "I believe in the longer term Wilshere will be the leader of this club and lead the club to trophies," he said. "That's what it is about as well for the great players and we have to make sure they all stay here." Arsenal host Aston Villa today without Bacary Sagna, who has a knee injury.

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