Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he finally has a squad full of “men” at the club.
Wenger brought in three major signings this summer to strengthen the team’s spine, including two experienced internationals in Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi and 27-year-old striker Lucas Perez.
And he said his current squad should be much better equipped to compete for titles than some of he young teams he had in the past.
“I would say it’s the most mature squad I’ve had in a long time. Because they are men,” Wenger said at his news conference on Friday ahead of Saturday’s Premier League game against Southampton.
“They are not 19, 20-year-old players. They are 24, 27, 28 and the whole squad is quite mature. It’s the first time for a long time that I have a team of what you’d call men, who are ready to compete.”
Arsenal are looking to win the Premier League for the first time since 2004, having clinched second last year for their best finish in a decade.
Wenger spent much of that time developing young players bought cheaply on the transfer market or brought out of the academy as Arsenal struggled to pay for top players after moving into the Emirates Stadium.
Those shackles have now been lifted, and this summer’s signings join the likes of recent additions Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech in adding both talent and experience.
And Wenger admitted that the team’s youth had been a problem in some seasons.
“I always believe we have a chance, even when I had young players,” he said. “But certainly I did not have a squad of players for a long time who had enough experience to compete.”