Wenger starts mind games with Chelsea over fee for Wright-Phillips

Arsenal's manager grabs early chance to wind up rivals while admitting that his side will miss Patrick Vieira but can do without Michael Owen. Jason Burt reports
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The Arsenal manager also conceded that his team would miss the physical presence of Patrick Vieira and may have to adapt their style of football. But Wenger said he remained committed to attacking play and implied that Arsenal would remain a more entertaining team than Chelsea.

"Do you really think that Wright-Phillips will have cost £21m?" Wenger said of the former Manchester City winger who was long coveted at Highbury. "Frankly, we have to be honest."

A more realistic price, Wenger said, would have been half that amount. "They [Chelsea] know they have plenty of money so when they come in, they buy [for] £20m what costs £10m."

Wenger dismissed the concerns of fans who have seen Arsenal miss out on their main summer target, Julio Baptista, who joined Real Madrid. "I can understand that the fans are frustrated if we play bad football and don't win our games," Wenger said. "But not because we do not spend money."

He will not be parting with any cash for Owen despite his admiration for the player. "I have nothing against Michael Owen but you cannot force me to buy Owen if I don't need him," Wenger said.

"We have Thierry Henry who scores 25 goals a season and can they live together? I don't know. I like Owen but I look more for a deeper kind of striker. I have Dennis Bergkamp but he is getting older."

Wenger said it would be unfair to buy Owen and not play him: "It would be dishonest to take an international player like him and put him in the same situation he has at Real Madrid."

Wenger said he was also not looking for a replacement for Vieira - although he admitted his team will miss their former captain. "We will miss him in the build-up of the game," he said. "We will miss Patrick in our team when we have the ball because he was always there to take the ball. When he had three players on his right shoulder and two on his left, he wasn't scared. But if Juventus came and bought Patrick Vieira at 29 years of age, and they have scouts everywhere in the world like we have, that shows you can't get another Patrick Vieira."

There may be, however, a Viera arriving today in time for Sunday's Community Shield meeting with Chelsea. Uruguayan goalkeeper Sebastian Viera is set to join, either on a permanent transfer or a loan deal. Terms were being finalised last night with the 22-year-old.

Wenger will hope that Viera will bolster his side's defensive record. "We play our style, the football we love, and try to be faithful to that," he said.

"I feel that our target is to defend better than we did last year. Basically, if you analyse the numbers, we finished with the best attack in the league last year and only had an average defence. We need to defend better without losing what makes us Arsenal."

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