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Grappling with injuries, Wenger planning to strengthen defense in January

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LONDON — After eight trophyless seasons, Arsene Wenger finally faced shareholders again with a couple of new pieces of silverware as table decorations. There were applause on Thursday rather the disgruntlement of previous years at the annual general meeting, but Wenger still didn't escape censure over the team's inability to sustain a Premier League title challenge.

The Gunners, who last won the league in 2004, host Hull on Saturday sitting nine points behind leader Chelsea having failed to win their last two games, including losing to their London rivals.

With another series of injuries plaguing Arsenal, Wenger faced questions from shareholders about why another defensive-minded player wasn't signed in the summer transfer window.

Wenger conceded Arsenal could have strengthened further in the summer, and planning is already underway for the January window.

"I believe we have done remarkably well on the transfer market," Wenger said. "I agree we could have bought one more player, (but) we did not find (one).

"We will try to rectify that, because we are a bit short with the injuries we have (defensively), and overall I think we will rectify that in the transfer market."

With owner Stan Kroenke expressing delight at May's FA Cup win, which was followed by the Community Shield success in August, the board isn't about to start publicly questioning Wenger.

Rival managers have seemingly less job security, and the future of some will be under scrutiny again this weekend — from Newcastle to Queens Park Rangers. Here's a look at the Premier League scene after the two-week international break.


REDKNAPP ON THE RACK: Entering the eighth game of the league campaign, QPR is bottom, with Harry Redknapp's feeble side on four points. The west London club has repeated some of the things it did in the 2012-13 season which ended in relegation, including signing aging veteran players like 35-year-old defender Rio Ferdinand.

"We haven't gelled as a squad," Ferdinand said in Thursday's editions of the London Evening Standard newspaper. "When we do, I'd like to think results will improve. Although it's not as easy as that — it's no good just talking about it, we have to go out and do it."


PARDEW'S PAIN: Newcastle might be two places above QPR, but only due to a superior goal difference and Alan Pardew's side is still searching for its first win. One positive is that goalkeeper Tim Krul should be fit for Saturday's visit of Leicester despite sustaining an elbow injury while on Netherlands duty.


AT THE TOP: The opening two months of the season saw Chelsea emerge as the force, sitting five points clear of Manchester City. Chelsea crosses the River Thames to face Crystal Palace on Saturday when City hosts Tottenham.

City overwhelmed Tottenham 6-0 and 5-1 last season before Mauricio Pochettino took over, and the new manager is still trying to impose his vision at the London club.

"This is another season, another philosophy, another game," said Pochettino, whose team is sixth. "We need to arrive on Saturday with the idea to believe in our philosophy and style and try to get the points."


WALCOTT RETURNS: It's not only bad news for Arsenal when it comes to injury updates. Theo Walcott is closing in on a return to the first team after being out since January following knee surgery, with the with winger set to play for the under-21s on Friday. If his knee holds up well, he could be in the squad for the game against Hull. German winger Serge Gnabry is also back in full training for the first time this season.

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