North London Derby: Arsène Wenger won't confront reality of today's prices

Arsenal manager says his squad is stronger than Tottenham's

Asked simply whether he still believed that his squad was as strong as that of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsène Wenger sought to add the caveat that he did not spend his time comparing the relative strengths of the two clubs. But his answer was to the point nonetheless: yes, he did believe his squad was better.

Sunday will be Wenger's 41st north London derby, and he has won 18 so far, a record which caused a flicker of a smile when he was reminded of it. Everyone knows that under his management, Arsenal have never finished below Tottenham in the Premier League and last season's fightback that ended with Wenger's team finishing fourth began after defeat at White Hart Lane on 3 March.

Spurs have tried hard to recapture the Champions League place that they have earned just once in their recent history, and this summer they have gone for broke. Selling Gareth Bale in exchange for buying seven new players, including midfielder Christian Eriksen signing for €13.5m (£11.5m) from Ajax, has been the most aggressive play of any Premier League team.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have behaved as if no one is good enough for them, raising the possibility that by Monday afternoon pretty much anyone available will be good enough.

Asked about the possibility of signing the Real Madrid three of Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Angel di Maria, Wenger said: "I don't know, it's not like a supermarket where if you buy two you get one free."

All good fun, although you do wonder if he is taking the whole thing seriously. When he suggested that Spurs might have bought too many players – "you unbalance a little bit the stability of your squad" – it was as if he had gone beyond parody. But that is how Wenger is approaching the last three days of the window, dismissive of the prices being quoted him and adamant that he will not "panic buy".

"If someone can find players who can strengthen our team, we will do it. But we have 20 people working on that, and if we can't find them, we can't do anything." That was Wenger after the 8-2 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, two years and two days ago, that precipitated the signing of Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Park Chu-young in the last two days of the window.

"If we can add players who can integrate that style of play we will do it. We will work hard on that and if we can't do it, we will not do anything stupid for the sake of saying we have done something. We do what makes sense, not what's simple." That was Wenger, three days from the end of a transfer window in which he has signed just the free agents Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini.

In 2011, Wenger had already committed around £20m on the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho before he embarked on his final round of signings after that sobering defeat to United. This time he has spent even less by the equivalent stage, in spite of all the promises from the club's chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, and, as ever, it is Wenger's obsession with value rather than quality of player that carries all before it.

If it is not housing market/transfer market analogies that are playing on Wenger's mind, it is the motives of certain billionaires spending money for fun at clubs with smaller stadiums than the Emirates. "You could be in the position to buy a house that is worth £2m but if you like it and you have £4m, you can buy it for £4m," he said. "But that doesn't mean you can re-sell it for £4m, just that you have £4m and you can buy it. It is exactly the same with players. Monaco buy [Radamel] Falcao aged 27 for £60m. They have a 17,000-capacity stadium, they know it doesn't make sense but the guy who owns the club has the money so he decides to buy him.

"There is no transfer market any more where you can say, OK, this player is a right-back, a left-back or whatever. It just depends on the financial potential of the buyer. We have financial potential – I wouldn't deny that. But we will decide still to pay the right price."

The right price. It is a concept that no longer exists in football, although Wenger is defiantly clinging on to the dream. The market is absurd, but it is the market nonetheless and once again Arsenal, for all their bravado, have so far refused to engage.

Spurs, who confirmed the signing of Erik Lamela from Roma, may simply be reinvesting the money they will earn for Bale but they have embraced one truth: a club has to be prepared to spend to sign sought-after players.

It is not a reality that Wenger wants to confront. Not yet anyway. Asked about the prospective £86m fee Real Madrid will pay for Bale, he replied: "They are very generous." When he found himself pushed on the quality of Spurs' signings he simply decided to change the argument.

"There is a big debate in England at the moment that the Premier League is an obstacle for the national team. I was accused many times of that [signing non-English players] – but now I have many players who play for the England side. And you push me to buy foreign players? That cannot be right somewhere because we have plenty who can play for England. We have Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere."

Two years ago it required defeat on an industrial scale to convince Wenger to sign more players, and not all those signings were successful.

Today he was talking about the possibility of Nicklas Bendtner coming back into the squad, two days before a game against the ambitiously rebuilt Spurs. Will he sign anyone before Monday? Does he want to? Could he actually be happy with what he has?

"Look, if you had looked at Chelsea's squad at the start of last year, would you have said they had a squad to fight for the Premier League?" he asked, rhetorically. "Yes? They finished two points ahead of us and it was decided in the last game.

"So I let people talk and I try to analyse the quality of the game we have. I just can say one thing: in the last six months we have lost one game."

Sam Wallace's north London XI

It's the traditional "best of both sides" north London derby team. The basic rule is that it includes non-injured players only. The tough calls? Koscielny over Dawson, especially given how badly the Arsenal man has started the season, but I think the Frenchman edges it. Then there is Soldado or Giroud. Both have scored goals this season but in the long-term Soldado looks the better bet. Otherwise why would Wenger have tried to sign a new striker?

The team in full Lloris; Walker, Vertonghen, Koscielny, Rose; Paulinho, Wilshere, Cazorla, Dembele, Walcott, Soldado

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Life and Style
The spring/summer 2015 Louis Vuitton show for Paris Fashion Week
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?