Arsene Wenger hails Rob Holding, says 'I am sorry he didn't cost £55 million'
Arsene Wenger brushed off calls for Arsenal to bring in a veteran centre-back by praising defenders Rob Holding and Laurent Koscielny in a "great defensive performance" in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Leicester City.
Wenger decided to start Holding over Calum Chambers even though the newcomer from Bolton -- who cost just £2 million -- only made his Premier League last weekend when the Gunners conceded four goals in a 4-3 loss to Liverpool.
And while Arsenal are still looking for an experienced defender in the transfer market, and have been in talks with Valencia over Shkodran Mustafi, Wenger said Holding's performance showed that splashing cash is not always the answer.
"We have a whole team working on the strengthening of the team. I'm not the only one," Wenger said in his postgame news conference.
"Unfortunately no one speaks about the performance of Rob Holding. You should be happy, he is English and 20 years old. I am sorry he didn't cost £55 million, so he can't be good."
"We don't speak about the performances anymore and I think that is not right."
Angry Arsenal fans who travelled to the King Powe Stadium called for Wenger to make signings, but Wenger, clearly irritated by transfer talk, again defended his policies.
Asked if he is reluctant to spend money, the manager replied: "Why do you say I'm reluctant? If I buy you tomorrow for £45m, I have spent £45m, and I would have done well because I will have listened to you, but spending the money in itself is not a quality.
"Spending the money buying a top player is different and we are ready to do it. I just said I'd spend £300m if I find the player and I had £300m.
"Do not forget we are a club who has 600 employees who we have to have a responsibility to as well. It's a bit surprising you come out of games and don't speak about football. You have to speak about money.
"You have to respect the players who played and the performance from both teams. If we find the players to strengthen our team then we are not reluctant to spend the money.
"They [the fans] are highly influenced by the media, that's part of the process today. We try to make the right decisions, it's as simple as that."
Wenger brought Koscielny back into the squad after he was rested against Liverpool, when his absence was keenly felt in the defeat at the Emirates.
That led Wenger to rush the Frenchman back into the starting lineup even though he opted to keep Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud on the bench, with all three having returned late after the European Championship.
It turned out to be a crucial decision as Koscielny helped the Gunners repel the speedy threat of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez and made a crucial last-ditch tackle to deny Danny Drinkwater in the first half.
"The whole back four played well, and [Koscielny] guided the defence well. He had an outstanding game," Wenger told BT Sport. "And Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal as well played very well.
"It was a game of high intensity, where both teams gave absolutely everything. On that front, I believe when you conceded four goals last week we have shown a great defensive performance.
"Overall we created the chances to win it. But you could see that they were not champions for no reason last year. It's a team that is very well organised, it's very difficult to create chances."
Arsenal's attacking performance was a lot less convincing, though, as Alexis Sanchez struggled to create chances in his role as the central striker. The Gunners immediately looked more dangerous when Wenger brought on Ozil and Giroud toward the end, but they still didn't create any clear-cut chances.
"Mesut Ozil is not completely ready yet to cope with the physicality of the game -- that is why we have to be a bit careful with him," Wenger told the BBC.
"We made many chances against a team that defends very well. Overall we still lack a little bit in our decision making and in the final ball but that will come. It's a positive game."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.