Wenger tried to buy Hazard from Lille but withdrew interest when realising
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“Yes,’’ Wenger said when asked om Thursday whether he had been in the hunt for Hazard. “The transfer price was fixed, because he had a clause, so everybody was at the same level.
“He has been voted best player of the French league two consecutive years. You need some quality to do that at his age. I’m not surprised at all that he goes to Chelsea, and straight away is one of their stars because everybody knew about him.
"Let’s not forget that all the big budgets in England were after him. We are not scared to spend the money, but we feel that even if we spend our money, with some clubs we can’t compete on certain players.”
Group profit before tax at Arsenal was £36.6 million for the year ending May 31, 2012, up from the equivalent 2011 figures of £14.8 million. Wages rose from £124 million in 2011 to £143 million, representing 60.9 per cent of the club’s football revenues.
Wenger said: “Our numbers are good. Under the actual circumstances this is quite positive because the whole environment is not positive [globally]. We are very lucky because we have a good support and the income of our gates is very high. We have to maintain that by keeping our fans happy.’’
With the likes of Hazard and Oscar in their line-up, Chelsea have a more fluid, elegant approach.
“Chelsea have gone with a different style, they have rejuvenated because they bought some very young players with maybe a more technical style,’’ Wenger said. “They have gone a little bit more creative. Until now it has worked well for them so it is a good challenge for us to beat them.”
Chelsea are less power-orientated without the muscular Didier Drogba. “I don’t know how much they miss him but we don’t miss him!’’ smiled Wenger of a player who bullied Arsenal’s defence during his time at Chelsea.
“He did a lot of damage against us every game. I feel last year, honestly he had an average season in the Premier League but in the cups he was absolutely influential and decisive.
“He was a big part of their success in the FA Cup and Champions League because he was massive. He has that quality and even when he was on a bad day for 80 minutes he didn’t give up and kept his focus and his desire to be efficient. He was an exceptional player.”
Wenger described Chelsea as “efficient” in their run to the Champions League success last season. “They were close to winning it before but the accumulated experience, the tenacity they’ve shown and a bit of luck as well got them the trophy. You have to congratulate them for that. Maybe before they had a better team and were unlucky.
"Last year they had that kind of luck. But you must give them credit for the consistency and attitude they showed in the games where they were dominated and the mental strength to finally win it. Drogba was very influential in that.”
Arsenal have been playing well, even earning praise from Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who was not always Wenger’s closest ally during the Special One’s time as Chelsea manager.
“It is always nice to hear good things about your team, especially from people who are in the job and know the job,’’ said Wenger, who acknowledged that such kind messages were not usually expected from Mourinho. “Not especially, no. I believe he is honest and speaks about what he sees and thinks. I hope we will be at the level he puts us for the whole season.’’
Arsenal have players returning. Thomas Vermaelen is available for tomorrow. Emmanuel Frimpong, following two knee injuries, and Jack Wilshere, who has been beset by ankle and knee problems, are back in full training.
Wilshere will play for an hour for Arsenal’s under-21s on Monday. “It’s another important step but he has not played for 14 months so we have to calm your impatience a little bit. It is fantastic for him.’’
Wenger emphasised that he felt England’s World Cup qualifying double-header against San Marino and Poland, on Oct 12 and 16 respectively, “would be too early” for the midfielder, although he added: “Who does England play, San Marino? I think he can play in that game!”
As for other injuries, Wenger said that Tomas Rosicky is “two weeks away” while Wojciech Szczesny is “two to three weeks away’’.