ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger yesterday ruled out a move for Newcastle United striker Demba Ba, but appeared to back-track on claims he would not sign Thierry Henry for a third time.
Alan Pardew’s admission that he would let Ba leave Newcastle if he did not remove the £7.5 million release clause in his contract sparked rumours that Arsenal would make a bid for the striker. Wenger has struggled to fill the void left by Robin van Persie, and with 11 goals so far this season Ba would seem an ideal fit, but the Frenchman denied he was interested in signing the 27-year-old.
“I like Demba Ba, yes,” he said ahead of his team’s match against Newcastle today. “I don’t think [this] is the right place to speak about that, because he plays against us tomorrow. I wouldn’t like to put Newcastle or us or him in an uncomfortable position. If you ask me, ‘Do we sign Demba Ba?’ I say no.”
With Gervinho absent for the African Nations Cup next month, Wenger will be short of a forward, and Henry would be a possible short-term replacement. Earlier this week the Gunners manager played down reports linking him with a second loan move for Arsenal’s record goalscorer during the Major League Soccer off-season.
But Wenger yesterday denied he had shut the door completely on a temporary move for the 35-year-old, who scored twice in seven games during a loan spell at the Emirates Stadium last term. “I’ve not lost interest in him,” said Wenger, who has allowed Henry to train with Arsenal for the last month.
“I’ve not completely [ruled it out]. But I haven’t spoken about it with him at all.
“He’s still coming today to practise with us. We are very close [personally], but at the moment I think he has had a second spell at the club that was very successful. You have to be cautious that it’s not one time too many.”
Rather than focus on signing new strikers, Wenger’s top priority remains keeping Theo Walcott, who turned down a new contract last summer and will be free to leave at the end of the season should he not extend his deal.
Wenger has played the England international in his preferred striker position for the last two games, perhaps in a bid to help persuade him to stay, and the manager remains hopeful he will not lose the player in the summer.
“Yes [talks are ongoing] and yes [I remain optimistic he will sign],” Wenger said.
Despite the acquisition of the classy Santi Cazorla, and the return of Jack Wilshere, Arsenal are 16 points behind leaders Manchester United at the halfway point of the season, but Wenger vowed: “We will [do better in the second half of the season]. We are behind our schedule and we have to make up the points we miss at the moment. We rebuilt the team at the start of the season. Overall what is important for us is to improve the quality of our displays and focus just on that. Points will come.”