Jan 29, 2009

Sport - Football;Arshavin Arsenal deal close, admits Wenger

Arsene Wenger believes that Arsenal are on the verge of finally sealing a deal to sign Andrei Arshavn from Zenit St Petersburg.

The Gunners' pursuit of the Russia playmaker, who is valued at around 15 million pounds, has been one of the most protracted deals of the current transfer window.

Arshavin's Russian club have claimed that a fee has been agreed and although Wenger remains cautious, he admitted following the 1-1 draw at Everton on Wednesday that he is on the verge of making his first signing of the month.

"I have been focused on the Everton game and didn't pick up any phone-calls so nothing has happened," he said.

"It is 90 percent (finished) and I don't know what happened today (Wednesday). In this kind of job sometimes the 10 percent is more important than the 90 percent because people can change their minds quickly."

Wenger could do with Arshavin as, following Aston Villa's 1-0 win at Portsmouth and Arsenal's point at Goodison Park - earned by Robin van Persie's injury-time equaliser of Tim Cahill's opening goal - the Gunners are struggling in the race for fourth place.

And Wenger, whose team are five points behind Villa, stands by his claim that David Moyes' Blues are as much of a competitor for their Champions League place as Martin O'Neill's men.

He added: "A point is never enough because you always play for three but it was a difficult game and I maintain that Everton are as big a threat for us as Aston Villa.

"Everton are a good side and they will be a threat for a top four place.

"We're on a good run so it was very important not to lose once we were 1-0 down and to keep Everton at a distance. To keep our run going was vital."

Wenger admits he is full of admiration for Australia midfielder Cahill, who has scored four goals in nine games.

He said: "He's a fantastic player. Tactically very good, very intelligent and if you look at all the defenders in the league, they're all a head higher than he is but he always pops up with a header.

"He has something that you can't give to anybody. He knows where to be on a football pitch."

Moyes revealed that he has been thwarted in his attempts to bring two un-named loan targets to Goodison Park.

The Blues have no money available to make new signings and Moyes has conceded that loan players were his only chance of adding to his squad this month.

But he said: "We were in for two loan signings and they won't come off.

"They were the two we were after so unless something comes out of the blue.

"They were the two we were interested in and they don't look like they're going to come off."

Moyes believes that his Everton side, who are now unbeaten in nine matches, can sustain a challenge for the top four.

He added: "We lost a late goal against Aston Villa and now against Arsenal and those points are vital but it's amazing how far you've come when you're disappointed to only take a point at home against Arsenal.

"Those two points would have been crucial because we're still just outside it and those two points would have got us much closer to the teams above us.

"It's a long way to go to catch them but if we keep playing the way we're playing there will be a chance we can get the teams above. We're playing well enough to try to do that."

Cahill limped off with a foot injury but Moyes revealed it was only a minor knock and the Australian will be in contention for Saturday's trip to Manchester United.

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