Arsene Wenger insists that his squad is good enough to compete this season, despite a looming midfield crisis. Alex Song was yesterday charged by the Football Association with violent conduct, and with Cesc Fabregas gone, Samir Nasri likely to follow and Jack Wilshere injured, Wenger is already short on options. Arsenal's immediate priority, though, is the Champions League, in which they host Udinese in a crucial qualifier tonight.
Arsenal will already have to face the season without Fabregas. But yesterday they learnt that they may lose Song for three games, after he was charged after appearing to stamp on Joey Barton in Arsenal's 0-0 draw at Newcastle United on Saturday. Gervinho will also be banned for three games for a red card, although Arsenal are set to appeal. Both teams were charged with failing to control their players.
If Song is banned, then, with Nasri's future still in doubt, Arsenal would be short in midfield for upcoming games against Liverpool, this Saturday, and Manchester United, a week on Sunday. Despite this, Wenger believes that his squad is good enough to compete. "We focus on the players we have here," he said, "and we believe we have enough strength here. I have seen all the games over the weekend, I don't think we should be suddenly afraid of anybody in England."
On Saturday the Arsenal fans sung to urge Wenger to be bolder in the transfer market before the window closes. But he will only spend if he believes he can improve the team. "Everybody says to me: 'Buy'. I'm not against it," he said. "But when I ask, 'who?', then, there is a no man's land."
First Arsenal must focus on this evening's game. It will be their fifth Champions League play-off in six years and, while they have successfully negotiated the last four, they face in Udinese their strongest opponent at this stage yet.
Wenger said that he wants his players to concentrate on their own game: "No matter how big the game is you still have to play good football, and make a good pass when you have the ball. It's not more complicated than that, even in a World Cup final. Afterwards you deal with whether you win or lose."
As a result of comments made relating to his team's Champions League exit to Barcelona last year, Wenger has a touchline ban for tonight's game, and will be in the stands. Robin van Persie and Nasri are also suspended, while Wilshere is out and Tomas Rosicky is a doubt.
Defender Emmanuel Eboué was in Turkey last night for talks over a move to Galatasaray.