Wenger revealed some team news in a press conference today ahead of the home game on Saturday.
Diaby, who was left out of France’s second World Cup qualifier with a muscle strain, is a ‘maybe’ for the match. Wenger said that:
“He will have a test on Friday morning and we will go from there. At the moment he is 50:50. It is a small muscular problem that is very minor.
“But of course we are in the situation that, because we play so many games now, should we take a gamble or not with him? We are playing on Saturday, on Tuesday and then we go to Manchester City.”
As Wenger said, we have plenty of games over the coming weeks. Given his fragile body and our wealth of talent in midfield, I think it is worth resting Abou this weekend. Ramsey, Coquelin or Oxlade-Chamberlain could replace him, each bringing a different skill to the midfield. Coquelin may allow Arteta to push forward, although I’d prefer Mikel to continue in his deep defensive midfield role, allowing Coquelin to use his energy and enthusiasm to attack. Ramsey has the attributes to be a great box-to-box midfielder and could get into great areas off Giroud’s knock-downs. Although he is lacking in form, I’d like to see Ramsey in that position. Oxlade-Chamberlain has played a lot of football lately with a start against Liverpool and two starts for England, but he is probably the most exciting of the three.
The boss indicated that Szczesny is fit to face Southampton whereas Fabianski is unavailable:
“Lukasz Fabianski is out with a shoulder problem. He has come back from Poland with a shoulder problem and Wojciech is perfectly fit and ready. He will be in the squad.”
In some ways, this creates a dilemma for the manager. Should he put the no.1 straight back into the squad at the expense of Mannone who has kept two clean sheets? Some might say that is unfair on Vito who has done as well as he can. So does he keep Mannone in the team? If he were to do that, then when does Mannone get dropped? Does he have to do an Almunia?
Personally, I’d put Szczesny straight back into the team, and I expect Wenger to do so. But it does raise the question of whether our reserve keepers will ever get the chance to usurp Wojciech. Although Mannone wasn’t mind-blowingly brilliant in his two matches, he was decent. If he won’t be rewarded for such performances, he may never get an opportunity in the first team. Then again, he may be fine with that; Carlo Cudicini certainly doesn’t seem to mind picking up his wages and doing little else.
We should see Theo return to the squad following his virus which ruled him out of England’s second match.
“Theo Walcott is in bed with a virus. He missed the England game with a virus. He should be back today, so we will have to see how well he has recovered from that.”
I guess he is another 50-50 along with Diaby. He hasn’t had an altogether convincing start to the new campaign; perhaps his future is playing on his mind a little bit. I’d like to see him come in on the wing if Oxlade-Chamberlain is moved into the centre of the pitch.
Wenger then spoke about long-term absentees Frimpong, Sagna, Rosicky and Wilshere.
“He [Frimpong] is very close. He joins the squad again next week for complete, normal training. It is very good news because he is really fit and ready. He has worked very hard and we are amazed how good he looks at the moment.
“Wilshere is not far away. Sagna is not far away. At the moment the injured players look like they are recovering well.
“The main injuries are Frimpong who is recovering well, Wilshere is short-term, Sagna around two weeks and Rosicky around two to three weeks.”
This is all pretty promising, assuming it all goes to plan. Three of the four players can be considered serious contenders for the first team, whereas Frimpong may have to wait in line considering the numbers we have in midfield.