Arsène Wenger has confirmed Arsenal are close to completing the signings of Lucas Pérez and Shkodran Mustafi for around £52m but denied suggestions he is panic buying and warned that football fans will be “amazed” at the amount of money spent by Premier League clubs before the transfer window closes on Wednesday.
Pérez, from Deportivo La Coruña, and the Germany defender Mustafi, of Valencia, were due to have medicals on Friday with fees of £17.1m and £35m respectively agreed with the two La Liga clubs but the Arsenal manager believes the late nature of the deals and the sizeable price is a natural consequence of the Premier League’s new £5bn three-year TV deal. “Look at my face. Is this the face of someone who tends to panic buy?” Wenger said, smiling.
“No, it is the case that everybody is waiting to get the deals done. When a [foreign] club wants to sell to an English club today they ask for a huge amount of money. So it takes a long time to settle [on a price]. In the next two or three days everybody will find agreements.”
The amount spent by Premier League clubs this window has already gone past £900m, a record, eclipsing last year’s total of £870m, with five days still to go before the deadline. When asked if he expected this window to exceed £1bn in spending, Wenger replied: “A billion? Higher than that. I don’t know the final level but I’m convinced there are many, many clubs in England who have a big amount of money available who have not spent yet. Many. You can say all of them. Who has finished the market? Nobody. You will see how many transfers will happen in the next three or four days. You’ll be amazed.”
While keen to make clear that the deals were yet to be completed, Wenger was happy to talk about his prospective new players. Of the 27-year-old striker Pérez, who scored 17 goals in La Liga last year, he said: “He’s a late developer because he played in a different position [on the right-hand side of attack]. He has moved centrally and in a successful way. I think he has good link-up qualities, he’s good at receiving the ball and he’s a good finisher. But let’s see if we can finish the job first.”
While the Pérez deal came as something of a surprise, Arsenal have been linked with Mustafi for much of the summer. The 24-year-old started his professional career at Everton before moving to Sampdoria and then Valencia. He has 12 caps for his national side and scored in their 2-0 win over Ukraine at Euro 2016.
“I think he’s a good signing but time will tell,” Wenger said. “He had two years at Everton, he went to Italy, then Spain. But, you know, 19 is a difficult age to play centre-half in the Premier League. He was Valencia’s captain last season and, if we get it done, we’ll have achieved what we wanted [this window].
Wenger’s late splurge comes after another summer of supporter discontent at the lack of new faces arriving at the Emirates. While Manchester United have brought in Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Manchester City John Stones and Leroy Sane among others, Arsenal fans have had to make do with defensive midfielder Granit Xhaka and young English defender Rob Holding.
But Wenger believes that late dealing has turned out to be an inevitability, despite his initial expectations to the contrary.“This season I thought we would have the easiest transfer market ever,” Wenger added. “We knew what we wanted to do, we knew who we wanted to get but it didn’t come off. So you have to restart and, when you restart, some leagues are on holiday and then we had the European Championship. Nothing happened during the entire Euros. We couldn’t find anybody. That’s why it was very late.”