Is Wenger playing mind games about Berbatov at Arsenal, or is he just a fall-back?

Berbatov Fulham

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger appeared to rule out a move for Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov earlier this month but is the boss playing mind games?

On paper the former Tottenham and Manchester United striker ticks all the boxes Arsenal need ticked – he has the technical quality, he has the proven track record and experience.

His contract expires this summer at Craven Cottage, Fulham could use the financial injection and the player himself seems keen to leave for the other side of London.

However, the man who decides on the criteria seems to have ruled out, or at the very least distanced himself from, the possibility that Arsenal could sign Berbatov.

I won't go into any specific names. That would be disrespectful. We are assessing our options which are restricted. Berbatov is not a name we have considered,” said Wenger this month.

Perhaps the boss does indeed have other targets in mind – perhaps the likes of Diego Costa, Álvaro Morata or Jackson Martinez, as has been suggested. Maybe Wenger is simply playing games with the player and or his current club - and as he says anyway - he won't go into specific names.

For example, Wenger stated just a few days later, as I outlined earlier this week, that he would prefer to negotiate with clubs who are need the cash as it makes potential transfer deals easier to tie up swiftly in January.

Fulham do need to spend this January to give themselves a better shot at survival, with new owner Shad Khan yet to make a major injection in terms of transfer funds, and cashing in on Berbatov may be a way to speed that along.

Given that Berbatov is their highest earner on more than £5 million a year (with his contract soon to expire) one would think the former Manchester United striker would be a player Wenger would indeed be considering.

The reason I believe Wenger may well be bluffing over the potential deal is that he’ll want to ensure Fulham are keen to sell for a low price (they have a weak hand in the deal because of his contract situation and the fact he has expressed a desire to leave publicly) and also because Wenger is generally against paying such high wages, especially for a player of 32 years of age.

Berbatov has made it clear he would take a move to the Emirates in a flash and maybe this is Wenger’s way of letting him know Arsenal are less than impressed by the prospect of signing him in order to drive down the player’s wage demands.

For example, for a chance to join the Premier League leaders and line up alongside Mesut Ozil could very well be enough to make Berbatov take a wage cut which would suit Arsenal and Fulham who could take the money and part with a player who is clearly unhappy and hasn’t performed at his best for them of late.

image: © nicksarebi

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch