Arsene Wenger reveals scouting methods; Lewis Holtby Arsenal target

Wenger reveals the secrets behind his window shopping… and he's after Holtby

Neil Ashton


22:30 GMT, 3 January 2013



00:41 GMT, 4 January 2013

As time ticks on in the January transfer window, Arsene Wenger offered a fascinating insight into modern-day recruitment methods on Thursday.

Stressing that the job was tougher than when he arrived at Arsenal in September 1996, he admitted that the pressure is always on ‘to find the next Lionel Messi’.

Wenger’s exceptional record in the transfer market, especially in his early years as Arsenal’s manager, is up there with the very best. Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Petit, Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Edu, Lauren and Kolo Toure were among his finest acquisitions.

Mastermind: Wenger's scouting network uncovered the likes of Patrick Vieira

Mastermind: Wenger's scouting network uncovered the likes of Patrick Vieira

When they were winning trophies he was the supreme talent-spotter, well ahead of the rest in England.

Wenger said: ‘People want to see the next Lionel Messi – they don’t want to see a promising guy. The name of the player gives people hope, but when they haven’t heard of them people are already sceptical.

‘It’s much more difficult for us now. The competition is higher. We are trying to diversify a bit more because we are limited in England. A new market that is very interesting is Japan – it’s very competitive.

‘The country where we were really competitive in the past was France, but they produce less top players than they did, say, 15 years ago.

‘The emerging countries look to be Germany and Spain – they have taken over from France and they have many good, young players.’

One of them, Lewis Holtby, plays in Germany for Schalke 04 and Wenger admitted on Thursday that he is interested in signing him.

On the radar: German international midfielder Lewis Holtby

On the radar: German international midfielder Lewis Holtby

Holtby, 22, has made it clear that he will not be signing a new contract at the Veltins-Arena and will be leaving at the end of the season on a free transfer. Wenger added: ‘We have looked at him, yes,’ but that is as far as he would be drawn on the Germany midfielder.

He also admitted that Chelsea’s latest recruit, Demba Ba, was a target last summer, but he opted instead for Montpellier forward Olivier Giroud.

Wenger said: ‘It was Giroud or Demba Ba in the summer — they are very similar players. I was a bit cautious about the noises on Ba’s knee injury, but someone told me the problem he has is manageable and can be prevented.’

Wenger has other targets in January, but Arsenal are being out-manoeuvred by Manchester United in the chase for Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

In terms of trophy-winning potential, Arsenal cannot compete with United and they are aware that Zaha is right at the top of Sir Alex Ferguson’s wishlist.

Second favourites: Arsenal are behind United in the running for Zaha

Second favourites: Arsenal are behind United in the running for Zaha

With Theo Walcott expected to sign a new contract with Arsenal in the coming weeks, it may be that Wenger’s interest in the Championship’s best young player fades.

Instead he will turn to the Continent again, reminding his scouts that the demand at Arsenal is to sign only the best talent.

Wenger conceded on Thursday that although he was aware of Michu before he signed for Swansea in the summer, he didn’t realise quite what a threat he would prove in the Premier League.

On Sunday the Gunners will come across him again when they travel to the Liberty Stadium for their FA Cup third-round tie against Swansea.

Wenger added: ‘Honestly, Michu was not on our radar. You needed to have really deep knowledge of the market in Spain to do that. Michael Laudrup did because he has the connections.

‘We keep our scouts alert, but when you are a big club like Arsenal your scouts are a little bit more cautious about players.

‘Naturally they are less likely to look at players with smaller clubs. But what Michu is doing is not accidental. He is a really good player.’