Loss of Alex Song leaves Arsène Wenger flat and sorry Arsenal off-key
Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0
Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, hintly darkly at dissatisfaction with Alex Song as the midfielder headed to Barcelona yesterday to tie up the detail of his eyebrow-raising £15m transfer. Coming to terms with losing a second senior player in a matter of days after Robin van Persie's move to Manchester United, Wenger had initially tried to reassure supporters via his programme notes that the club is well stocked with midfielders – "nine or 10" of them, he claimed.
Two, Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong, are recovering from serious injuries, however, and a dull, goalless draw against Sunderland had the manager admitting "frustration" at the annual exodus of key players.
"It's difficult to make an overall conclusion about it," Wenger said. "Every case is individual and maybe one day I explain everything; I do not want to come with that now. We are left with that decision and now we have to face it and deal with it in the correct way. Hopefully we can, possibly we will, bring in a player."
Nuri Sahin of Real Madrid remains the most likely target if anyone else is to arrive. Of equal priority is to achieve a working relationship between Santi Cazorla from Malaga, who will be the main – perhaps only – creative force, and whichever of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud is going to take on the heavy burden of replacing Van Persie as the principal striker.
Wenger admitted of Podolski: "He has some work to do to change his game, make runs in behind and to protect the ball and move around the box." Giroud, who replaced Podolski after an unproductive hour, could have made a greater impact but wasted one of Arsenal's worryingly few chances. That opportunity, like most of the others, was created by Cazorla, who has become an instant favourite with a crowd searching for new heroes. The Spaniard said he has not played in the scheming No 10 role, but he looked the part and seems likely to be a vital player for Arsenal, especially until Wilshere makes his long-delayed return. "It's a position I really like, with the freedom that I like to have," he said.
The Sunderland manager, Martin O'Neill, delighted with a point against the odds, summed up Arsenal's dilemma: "Van Persie is a major loss to them; anyone would suffer if they lost a world-class player like that. Real Madrid would if they lost Ronaldo."
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