London (AFP) – Arsene Wenger will expect his Arsenal side to offer more convincing signs of their ability to compete for the Premier League title when they visit Hull City on Saturday after a testing week in Europe.
A 1-1 draw at Paris Saint-Germain ensured the Gunners avoided defeat in their opening Champions League outing although the point came at the expense of a red card for Olivier Giroud.
The performance was hardly impressive and were it not for the efforts of Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, controversially selected ahead of Petr Cech, the home side could well have inflicted a heavy defeat on Wenger’s men.
That result followed last Saturday’s narrow win against Southampton when it took an added-time penalty from Santi Cazorla to clinch victory and keep the north London club within five points of leaders Manchester City.
Arsenal have yet to hit top form this season, although recent signings Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez are still bedding into their new surroundings.
There is an underlying sense they have yet to kick into gear. A failure to collect three points at Hull will confirm the view that Arsenal are in danger of losing ground to the revitalised Manchester pair of City and United.
However, Mustafi has already seen enough of Alexis Sanchez to believe the Chile forward gives Arsenal an added attacking edge.
“I think in football today, modern football, it is not as static as it was and that’s what makes the game so quick and so difficult,” said Germany international Mustafi.
“If you are a defender, you have to run all over the pitch to chase your striker and it is always difficult.
“I think we all know Alexis has qualities and he knows where to stand to give the opponent a difficult game. You have to give him credit for that.”
– Phelan uncertainty –
Hull remain in takeover negotiations, with the club’s prospective new owners said to be keen to appoint Mike Phelan as manager on a permanent basis.
Chinese-American businessman Chien Lee is in advanced discussions over a proposed buyout worth in the region of £100 million ($132 million, 117.7 million euros), which would end the turbulent near six-year reign of Assem Allam and his son, Ehab.
Lee, who has lived in the United States for 30 years and is the founder and chief executive of private equity firm NewCity Capital, has been on Humberside this week to visit Hull’s facilities.
He hopes to push through a deal following a collapsed bid from a rival group of investors in China and Hong Kong.
Lee is co-owner of French Ligue 1 club Nice, along with US business partners Paul Conway and Eliott Hayes and Chinese associate Alex Zheng. All three men could also be involved in the proposed Tigers’ buyout.
Lee is ready to accept a recommendation from vice-chairman Ehab, who runs Hull on a day-to-day basis, to offer Phelan a chance to manage team affairs full-time.
The 53-year-old former Manchester United assistant has expressed his frustration at the uncertainty over his position as his spell in caretaker charge approaches two months since the resignation of Steve Bruce in July.
Phelan, who is set for further talks over his future after the weekend, was named Premier League manager of the month for August after guiding the relegation favourites to eighth place with seven points from their opening four games.
“There’s is a bit of belief now and hopefully we can cement our place outside the bottom area of the league,” Phelan said.
“If you get in that area, it can be difficult so we have to be in the frame of mind that we can go to the next level,” he added.
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