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Arsenal plans changes for next season
Wenger expects to bolster defense with key acquisitions
Posted: Monday May 17, 1999 02:20 PM
LONDON (Reuters) -- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger plans to buy at least three players and possibly five after his club surrendered its Premier League title to Manchester United over the weekend.
"I want to keep the players I have, keep them all," the Frenchman said after an ultimately irrelevant 1-0 win over Aston Villa at Highbury on Sunday.
"I will try to be wise and strengthen the squad without spending too much money."
Last season's champions and this year's runnersup need reinforcements to tackle an expanded Champions League competition next season as well as the task of competing with United in the domestic arena.
Wenger said the famed Arsenal back four, none of them younger than 32, could go on for another season but replacements were needed in that department.
"The defense can go on another season but it will be a completely different season," he said.
"The number of games will be absolutely amazing. We will have to build nearly two teams.
"Nobody can play every game, we need to keep experience at the back but bring one or two defenders in. They are the oldest defense in Europe but they are the best in Europe -- 17 goals conceded is absolutely amazing," said Wenger.
Arsenal's defense relies on veterans Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and Martin Keown who have mostly been at the club for the past decade.
All have contracts for next season but replacements such as Argentine Nelson Vivas, blamed for conceding the late goal against Leeds United last week that dealt Arsenal a 1-0 defeat and blew its chances, have been drafted in.
Arsenal is also reported to be on the verge of completing the signing of Dynamo Kiev Oleh Luzhny who will be another defensive option.
Wenger said the championship was really lost during the first part of the season, when players were still tired after the World Cup.
Both Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira played in the World Cup final for winners France while Dennis Bergkamp and an injured Marc Overmars were also in action through to the semifinals with the Netherlands.
"It took some time to get back to our normal level. We were the best side from December to now but we dropped too many points early on," said Wenger.
He said some players needed a rest now but Arsenal had every reason to be proud of their season in which they lost only four league matches and reached the semifinals of the FA Cup.
"We won the title with 78 points last season and we got 78 points again with a better defensive record and didn't win," he said after his team ended the season empty-handed after winning the double a year ago.
"But it shows the team has gained in quality and shows the quality of Manchester United. There were three outstanding teams in the championship and the difference was very small."
Nwankwo Kanu emerged as Arsenal's revelation of the latter part of the season and Wenger made clear that the Nigerian would take Bergkamp's place alongside Nicolas Anelka for overseas Champions League games since the Dutchman does not fly.
"He's different class for me. I would like to use him as a regular but it's difficult to find the balance with the three of them. Dennis doesn't fly so Kanu will get his games," he said.
"He is so intelligent, I expect a lot of him."
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