Arsène Wenger has revealed the latest Arsenal team news ahead of the Manchester United game on Saturday. In his pre-match press conference Wenger was asked plenty of questions about injuries, the League Cup, Arsenal’s defensive problems, Theo Walcott’s contract situation and how the fans will react to Robin van Persie at Old Trafford.
The first thing to talk about is the injury news. The good news is that there are no new injuries following that ridiculous game on Tuesday evening, although Wenger has suggested that some of the players will be rested because we are also playing in the Champions League next Tuesday. There is no mention of an injury to Ignasi Miquel, who was substituted with what looked like a strained thigh/hamstring late on against Reading.
What I think is important to point out is that Olivier Giroud started on the bench and therefore did not play the full 120 minutes against Reading. However, Theo Walcott did and maybe that will come into play on Saturday? We still don’t know if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be fit for the weekend, and Gervinho is out. Given his current form, we need Walcott to start. Carl Jenkinson, Arshavin and Coquelin also played the full match.
“Gervinho is out for three weeks, we think.”
Szczesny, Gibbs & Diaby
“We have no comebacks, no Wojciech, no Gibbs, no Diaby of course as well. Basically the squad should be approximately the squad we had last week. We have no injuries as well from Tuesday night.”
On the players who played 120 minutes against Reading
“Hopefully they will have recovered by Saturday.
“We do play Tuesday again [against Schalke] so we will consider the global situation and some players will be available maybe more for Tuesday than for Saturday.”
Is the League Cup the New FA Cup?
Wenger was then asked by one journalist whether he thought that, based on the two amazing matches that we have witnessed this week, the League Cup is becoming the new FA Cup.
Le Boss made a few very good points in response to this question. Briefly summarised, Wenger thinks that teams really go for it in League Cup matches because there is no replay and they have nothing to lose. There are no home and away legs and no goal difference to worry about, so nobody is going to play for a draw. Maybe this is something that should have been explained to Coquelin and Giroud before they threw their shirts into the crowd!
Arsenal’s Defensive problems
Given that we have kept only 1 clean sheet in our last 11 games, do Arsenal’s defensive problems worry Wenger? Everybody was quick to credit Steve Bould when we were good defensively at the beginning of the season, but now they appear to be turning on him.
“A little bit – when you are 4-0 down after 36 minutes then you can’t say that it is all well on that front. But as well I don’t believe that it is all Steve Bould’s fault.
“Last night the [Chelsea v Manchester United] game finished 5-4, but it could have been seven as well. Both teams had chances. I believe the offensive quality has improved a lot.”
Theo Walcott’s role in the team and contract situation
Bearing in mind his recent performances (7 goals and 4 assists this season despite only starting 3 games), Arsenal need to sort out Theo Walcott’s contract situation soon. There are people saying that we should let him go in January, but I think that that should be the last resort. We need him at the club. Theo is unhappy at being played in what he thinks is out of position. Wenger seems to agree and admits that there is “urgency” to get it all sorted.
“In our team, we have freedom of movement. Nobody is handcuffed. When we have the ball, we have a lot of freedom to move. It’s important to know where we go, but I think Theo has learnt a lot on that.
“He has good pace, [makes] excellent, intelligent runs, and what has changed with Theo is he’s become a very good finisher. I would take an example of his first goal the other night at Reading. It’s a real ‘finisher’s’ goal.
“I always said it is important that he plays in the right position and that certainly would be through the middle in the future, he showed that again on Tuesday night.
“The positions on the flanks are changing, you need to do a lot of defending. He should be dedicated more to offensive work.
“I’ve not thought about that [losing him], because at the moment I think we will still manage to make a deal with him. There is urgency [about sorting it out]. We want to sort it out before Christmas, one way or the other.”
How will fans react to Robin van Persie on Saturday?
There is no doubt in my mind that Arsenal fans will give van Persie absolute hell. It’s not just that he left for Manchester United. It’s the way that he left.
“I don’t know [what reception he'll get but] I hope it is a respectful one because he has played for us for eight years, he has done very well for us.
“You want him to be respected. We campaign against discrimination, it was still the case last week so why should it not be the case this week? I don’t know [what the fans will do], I think he will get the reception I hope for.
“Saturday’s game is not about Van Persie. Not for us and I don’t think for him, as well. For us, what is important is the result at the end of the game, and the quality of our performance. We do not even talk about him.”