After a summer which he said prepared him for "hell", Arsène Wenger hopes to begin anew against Swansea City this afternoon.
Within one traumatic August fortnight, Arsenal lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and were thrashed 8-2 at Manchester United. Wenger said yesterday that he "could write a book about the summer", but having recruited five experienced players in the final days of the transfer window, he believes today is "a new start".
The summer was dominated by speculation over the future of Fabregas and Nasri, leading to what Wenger called "the most disturbed pre-season" in his time at Arsenal. Both midfielders left, and the sum total of the discord may have driven Wenger to take up his pen. "I could write a book about this summer," he said. "It would be quite an interesting one, not because of me but because of all that happened. It was quite unbelievable."
So disconcerting was the experience that Wenger said it would even prepare him for the torment of eternal damnation. "In my job you expect to suffer," he explained. "So, that's why when I go to hell one day it will be less painful for me than for you."
August ended with Arsenal bringing in five uncharacteristically experienced players. Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Park Chu-young arrived, all aged between 26 and 31. Wenger explained this change of policy as necessary to protect his youngsters. "When you sit at Man United and you experienced what we did and we only have players without experience to come on," he said, "I felt that somewhere in a situation like that you don't even help the young players."
Wenger believes his squad is now more settled and focused than it was before. "It's like in a company when you're half-in and half-out, it's not as good as if you're completely in. That happened at the start of the season."
He also admitted that the remaining leading players were anxious about the future. "They could be a little bit worried about our ambition," he said, "because they see big players moving out and not big players coming in."
Perhaps the highest-profile arrival was the former Rangers midfielder Arteta from Everton. Despite his reputation for style, Wenger was impressed by his physicality. "I think he had the Spanish qualities," he observed, "but because he plays for a long time in England I'm quite amazed how strong he is in the challenge. He had a good education in Scotland."
Arteta is likely to start today, but the midfield will be without Jack Wilshere for at least two months. He will be in a protective boot for at least four weeks, having received a kick on his ankle playing for England in June but not seeking treatment as quickly as he might have done. "He went on holiday," Wenger explained. "When you are were 19 and you felt a kick somewhere, you think when you come back it will be all right. That's what he did."Reuse content