Arsene Wenger has confirmed that he will not take a risk on Jack Wilshere for this afternoon’s FA Cup match against Blackburn unless he is completely convinced of Wilshere’s fitness. Referring to how our talismanic midfielder suffered burnout 2 season’s ago, Wenger says that he has to take the rest of the season into consideration. There are also short updates on Koscielny and Vermaelen, who will both be having late fitness tests. Vermaelen looks to be the most likely to be back, which could be a huge boost.
“I will not take a risk [on Jack]. [That is because I have] the rest of the season in mind and what happened to him before.
“Wilshere and Koscielny have a test this [Friday] morning and Thomas Vermaelen should be back. He has a definite test today.
“We have plenty of people in training today who have a test and we’ll see how well they come out of it. I am confident 50:50 with Wilshere and Koscielny, and Vermaelen 90:10.”
On the one hand there is no doubt that we need to field a strong team and to progress in the FA Cup. On the other hand,the team that I have predicted should be more than capable of beating Blackburn without Wilshere and we want him to be as fit as possible on Tuesday to face Bayern Munich. In my opinion, there is also the opportunity to rest some of our other key players like Arteta and Cazorla. Rumours on Twitter are that the likes of Hector Bellerin, Thomas Eisfeld and Serge Gnabry could be included in the squad. We will find out for sure when the team news comes out in just under 2 hour’s time.
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There is no doubt that the FA Cup represents our most viable chance at a trophy this season. However, with the Bayern Munich game only a few days away, I am pretty sure that Arsene Wenger will be looking to rest a few of our key players against Blackburn. The key is striking a balance between the two matches. On the one hand, of course we want to win the FA Cup. On the other hand, we have to remember that we can qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning it. As ridiculous as it sounds, Chelsea did it last year when they were definitely not the best team in Europe, so there is no reason why we can’t do it too. As long as we are still in the competition, we are in with a shout.
Arsenal have never been knocked out of the FA Cup by a lower league club under Arsene Wenger.
This is the 8th time that we have played Blackburn in the FA Cup (W4,L3). Blackburn beat us 1-0 in the competition in 2007 and went on to reach the semi-finals.
You will all remember when we beat Blackburn 7-1 at the Emirates Stadium last season. However, this was not the biggest win that we have had against the Lancashire club. We beat them 8-0 in the 1932/1933 season.
Given the defensive injuries that are piling up, and that Carl Jenkinson is suspended following his red card against Sunderland, we are left with very limited defensive options. Nacho Monreal is not eligible to play in the Champions League because he is cup tied, so he will almost definitely start. With Jenko suspended, Sagna will probably move back to right-back, with Miquel & Mertesacker in the middle.
My midfield prediction is Diaby, Coquelin & Rosicky, which allows us to rest Arteta, Cazorla & Wilshere. Wilshere may have recovered enough to make it onto the bench, but he will more than likely be rested because Wenger won’t want to take the risk. Coquelin & Diaby can play deeper roles in front of Miquel and Mertesacker, with Rosicky in the CAM position. Aaron Ramsey could play, but I think that Wenger will want him for the Bayern game.
Up front we have Gervinho back from the African Cup of Nations and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, so you can rest Walcott and Podolski. Giroud in the middle. This is not our strongest team by any stretch of the imagination, but it should be enough to get past Blackburn and put us through to the quarter finals.
Below I have outlined some of the latest Arsenal team news following our 1-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday afternoon.In my opinion, the news does not make for particularly good reading. Thomas Vermaelen will be out for longer than expected, Laurent Koscielny has a calf problem and Jack Wilshere has a small thigh injury.
Arsene Wenger is quoted by a Belgian newspaper as saying: “We thought that Vermaelen would only be out for a few days, but he will be out longer.” There are also claims that Vermaelen has been given an anti-inflammatory injection in an attempt to avoid surgery. However, it is very unlikely that he will be fit to face Bayern Munich next week and reports suggest that he could be out for longer than a month. Many Arsenal fans are already beginning to get on Wenger’s back and are questioning why we did not sign a centre-back in the January transfer window to replace the outgoing Johan Djourou.
Before we even kicked off against Sunderland, Arsenal.com confirmed that Laurent Koscielny was having problems with a calf injury and was to be replaced by Carl Jenkinson, with Bacary Sagna moving to centre-back. Koscielny had passed a late fitness test after picking up the injury on international duty with France, but was deemed unable to continue after the warm-up.
“It’s a calf problem. We think it’s a question of days [until he returns] because he had a positive scan. He [came off for France] at half time [on Wednesday] and we decided to give him a trial in the warm up. He was not good enough. I don’t think it’s long-term.”
Wenger also gave an update on Jack Wilshere, who was substituted after taking a knee to the thigh a few minutes into the second half. Wenger is clearly angry at referee Anthony Taylor, who he says let several fouls go, and is also said to be unhappy that Wilshere played the full 90 minutes in England’s friendly against Brazil last week. The good news is that Wenger says he hopes that Jack will only be out for a few days. The bad news is that this is Arsenal. A few days can easily become a few weeks, and we cannot afford to have our talismanic midfielder missing for the games against Bayern Munich, Spurs and Everton.
“It was a big kick on the thigh. He couldn’t walk. He doesn’t walk properly now. I hope it’s four or five days [until he’s back]… Taylor let two or three things go that I thought were fouls on Jack. I was a bit frustrated because I thought many times he didn’t get the free-kick he deserved.”
Having won just 1 of 5 Premier League games played since the New Year, there can be no more excuses if we drop points at home to Stoke. Bar the signing of Ignacio Monreal from Malaga as a last-minute replacement for Kieran Gibbs, Arsene Wenger failed to bring in any other new faces in the January transfer window. Le Boss insists that he is not worried because our squad is good enough to contend for the Champions League places as is. I am going to disagree, so I guess it’s up to Arsene to prove me wrong.
While we did come back from 2-0 down to rescue a point against Liverpool on Wednesday evening, many felt that that was not enough. We had several chances to kill off the game when we were on top so it could possibly be looked at another two points dropped at home. Given the result on Wednesday, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of today’s game.
Stoke are also coming into the game in a horrible run of form. The Potters have taken just 2 points in their last 5 Premier League matches, so this could be just the game that we need to get our season back on track. History in this fixture would seem to be on our side. Arsenal have won their last 10 home games against Stoke in all competitions; the last time they beat us at home was at Highbury in August 1981.
Team news & predicted starting XI
With Kieran Gibbs out for up to six weeks with a thigh strain, new signing Nacho Monreal could be in line to make his Arsenal debut less than 48 hours after joining the club. I am not even going to consider playing Andre Santos, while Thomas Vermalen (who could also cover at left-back) faces a late fitness test for an ankle injury. With Vermaelen out injured, the centre-back pairing should be a very obvious one.
Mikel Arteta is back in the squad after three weeks out with a calf strain, but I doubt that Arsene Wenger will put him straight back in the starting line-up. Aaron Ramsey has actually been quite good in central midfield alongside Jack Wilshere, but I would guess that Wenger will prefer the physical presence of Abou Diaby against Stoke.
The front 3 of Walcott—Giroud—Podolski would seem to pick itself. All three are in fantastic form, so the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky will have to be content with a place on the bench. Gervinho is still at the African Cup of Nations, with the Ivory Coast due to play in the quarter-finals later today.
Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City We should have the necessary quality to rip the Stoke defence apart. However, we seem to be conceding goals left, right and centre, so I am sure that Stoke will score at least one.
Tonight’s game comes at the end of a packed January which has seen Arsenal play 8 games in the space of 30 days. Although there were two league defeats to Manchester City & Chelsea, we had a convincing 5-1 win over West Ham last week and, unlike Liverpool, secured a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup.
Arsenal vs Liverpool is never a dull affair and tonight should not be any different. Both teams have had fluctuating league form and will be looking to keep themselves within touching distance of the Champions League places. It’s 4 points between us & 4th placed Spurs and 7 between Spurs and Liverpool. I’m not going to say that it’s a must win, but we do need to string together some good results and slowly push ourselves back up the table. The Emirates has seen more goals than any other Premier League stadium so far this season, so we could be in for a high scoring game.
Thomas Vermaelen returns to the Arsenal squad after missing our FA Cup win over Brighton & Hove Albionwith a small ankle injury. Mikel Arteta, Kieran Gibbs and Lukasz Fabianski are still out. Gervinho is still away at the African Cup of Nations.
Pepe Reina, Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson are all likely to return to the Liverpool starting line-up. Enrique has not played for a month because of a hamstring injury, Reina has missed a few games a thigh injury and Johnson was also suffering from a minor hamstring problem. Liverpool’s only player missing is Martin Kelly, who has an anterior cruciate ligament injury and is not due back until March.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Arsenal 3-2 Liverpool Arsenal won 2-0 over Liverpool back in Septemberwith goals from Cazorla & Podolski, and I see no reason why we can’t beat them at the Emirates too.Our front 4 are in sensational form at the moment. Liverpool do pose a threat, especially through Suarez and Sturridge, but I reckon that we can take them. It will be close though.
Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest Arsenal injury news ahead of tomorrow night’s Premier League game at home to Liverpool. The only player returning to the squad is Thomas Vermaelen, who missed Saturday’s FA Cup 4th round win over Brighton & Hove Albion.Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin are still short and will probably not be available on Saturday to face Stoke. Lukasz Fabianski needs to play a game with the reserves to build up match fitness.
“Thomas Vermaelen is back available. And the players who were rested are back in contention, too.”
Francis Coquelin & Mikel Arteta
“They are a bit short – 100 per cent [they are unavailable] for Wednesday. Even for Saturday [they could be short], but there is a little chance they will be available at the weekend.”
“He is doing very well in training and now he needs to play a game.”
A full match preview (including predicted staring line-ups and match stats) will be published later. Still no transfer news to speak of, although we will keep you informed as soon as anything happens.
1) We conceded first. Arsenal started well, but there was nothing that Szczesny could do to stop Jack Collison’s long-range effort. It’s just typical of how Arsenal have been this season really.
2) Lukas Podolski had arguably his best game for Arsenal. Podolski chipped in with a fantastic equaliser only a few minutes after we had concded (- potentially one of the goals of the season) and grabbed 3 great assists.
“He had an outstanding game tonight. He scored a very important goal. He has an unbelievable shot because the keeper had no chance. After he gave of course two great balls as well. What is new for us is that we scored on a corner! It was a bit unusual. He had a very strong game at West Ham as well. Certainly today it was his most efficient game because I felt he took responsibility at the moment when we needed him. With a player of his experience you expect him to do that. I have plenty of candidates [to play through the centre] but I believe still this is his best position [on the left].”
3) 10 minutes changed everything. I am not quite sure what happened after half time, but suddenly everything just clicked. I would go as far as to say that it is the best 10-15 minutes that I have seen Arsenal play this season. Goals in the 47th (Giroud), 53rd (Cazorla), 54th (Walcott) and 57th (Giroud) put us way out of West Ham’s reach.
4) Olivier Giroud chipped in with brace to take himself into double figures for the season. Olivier clearly likes scoring against West Ham. He got his first Premier League goal at Upton Park and two against them at the Emirates. Let’s just hope that he can take his goalscoring form into our match against Liverpool next Wednesday.
5) Thomas Vermaelen twisted his ankle and was substituted for Koscielny on 57 minutes as a precaution. Apparently it is nothing major, although he is out for Saturday’s FA Cup 4th round match against Brighton.
“Vermaelen has an ankle problem. He got kicked and twisted a little bit. He is a doubt for Saturday but it is nothing major.”
6) West Ham were reduced to 10 men when Dan Potts was stretchered off after almost 10 minutes of treatment for a head injury. Potts spent the night in hospital, but was allowed home yesterday after some positive test results.
7) Aaron Ramsey played well as a replacement for Abou Diaby in central midfield. Diaby was rested because he has started quite a few consecutive games following his return from a lengthy injury. I think that Ramsey did better than Diaby has done in that position in the last few games. I can’t understand why Wenger insists on playing playing him on the wing when he has the potential to play like that at centre mid.
8) Some Gooners on Twitter have expressed concerns that this win may lull Wenger into a false sense of security and stop him from strengthening the squad. However, Wenger left his post-match press conference early to go and continue meetings over transfers, so hopefully it is all good news. There are only 6 days left in the transfer window, so he better be quick!
Szczesny – 7 Maybe could have done better for Mata’s goal. Thought he was at fault for the penalty until I saw the replay; not much that he could have done and at least he didn’t get sent off.
Sagna – 4 Got his positioning all wrong and looked uncomfortable dealing with Ashley Cole and Oscar/Hazard/Mata for most of the game. Provided very little support for Walcott.
Mertesacker – 6 Two words come to mind – too slow. Mertesacker simply could not keep up with the small, quick players in Chelsea’s attack and was caught out on several occasions when defending one-on-one.
Vermaelen – 7.5 As captain he should have done more in the first half to rally the team, but was much improved in the second half. Kept us in the game with some great tackles and positioning, especially when he blocked Demba Ba’s effort.
Gibbs – 7 Unfortunately didn’t work particularly well with Cazorla on the left-hand-side, but had a strong second half. He is developing into a neat little left-back.
Diaby – 5 A similar performance to the one that he made against Manchester City. Caught on the ball way too often. Not enough movement. Did not impose himself on the game at all, which is very frustrating given his size and usual physical presence.
Coquelin – 6 Made some good tackles and interceptions, but was rather lost because Diaby wasn’t helping him.
Wilshere – 7.5 One of the only Arsenal players who looked to be up for the game in the first half. Showed more determination than anybody else on the pitch. We need all the players to be as enthusiastic as Jack.
Cazorla – 6.5 A quiet performance on the wing in the first half, but much improved once he moved into the centre. Provided a great through ball for Walcott’s goal.
Walcott – 8 Please stop straying offside. Could have scored on a few occasions if the linesman’s flag didn’t keep going up. Grabbed a great goal with a neat finish.
Giroud – 5.5 We need another striker. In my honest opinion, Giroud is not good enough to play week-in, week-out. His hold up play is good, but he really needs to work on his finishing. Lashed an early shot well wide when it should at least have been on target.
Ramsey: A nice, tidy performance from Ramsey. Yes, he did give the ball away more than I would have liked, but he wash pushing forward and made some great passes, created lots of space and some nice runs.
1) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski missed the game through illness. There were no other details given, although I am sure that Arsene Wenger will give us an update in his West Ham pre-match press conference. There is no way of knowing at this point whether they will be available on Wednesday night.
2) Arsenal had a strong starting XI, but the bench left much to be desired. Injuries to Arteta and Rosicky (and the aforementioned AOC & Pod missing) meant that we were not left with a particularly influential bench. Wenger could not really change things on the attacking front, aside from bringing on Arshavin or Ramsey.
3) Yet again, Arsenal were guilty of starting very poorly. Some of the players need to realise that the first 45 minutes count too! The defenders were all over the place and the midfielders didn’t press or track runs. Chelsea were allowed too much of the ball and made the most of some quick build-up play between Hazard, Oscar and Mata. Abou Diaby and Coquelin were particularly guilty of giving the ball away in midfield.
4) Bacary Sagna was once again very poor. Sagna’s positioning for both goals was extremely suspect and he does not provide Walcott with enough support. This is not just a one-off; it has been going on for a number of weeks. I am wondering how long it will be before Carl Jenkinson will be given another chance to show what he is capable of.
5) Olivier Giroud continues to frustrate [me, at least]. There were a number of missed opportunities, including the chance to put us in the lead only a few minutes in. He lashed Walcott’s through-ball wide. His headers were almost all off target and I am just not convinced that he has what it takes to play in the Arsenal team week-in, week-out. Olivier continues to divide opinion amongst arsenal fans. I am not sure that he is all that.
6) Our corners were absolutely terrible and provided nothing but a chance for Chelsea to hit us on the counter-attack. The balls in from Walcott were really poor, and it’s not like we are lacking in height. Mertesacker, Giroud and Diaby are all pretty tall. Our free kicks were not much better. Luckily, Chelsea’s corners were also pretty poor.
7) Jack Wilshere was left very frustrated. You could see Wilshere shouting, trying to get other players to close down, especially in the first half. He is one of our most vocal players and that is why he is so important. He tries to motivate others when we are looking a little flat.
8) For all Chelsea’s possession and shots in first half, the two goals we conceded were very unlucky. Ramires was the centre of both controversial (if I can use that word) incidents. He committed a foul on Coquelin in the build-up to Mata’s goal and then fell over a bit too easily & conveniently for Chelsea’s penalty.
9) Arsenal are definitely suffering from “Second Half Syndrome”. As bad as our first-half performance was, our second half performance was fantastic. However, it was too little too late. If only we could play like that for the whole game. We closed down well, made good runs, and the passing was miles better.
10) Theo Walcott got the goal he needed to silence his critics. Like with Giroud, Walcott’s new contract seems to be dividing opinions amongst Arsenal fans. Is he worth 95k or 100k a week? Well, if he can score 20 goals a season then I would say definitely. His finish was cool and composed. He could have had more if he hadn’t been caught offside by Chelsea’s high line.
11) We have to beat West Ham. After losses to City and Chelsea, we cannot afford to drop more points. Liverpool is going to be a tough game given the form of Suarez and Sturridge. You also have to bear in mind that we are on the same number of points as the Reds (albeit with a game in hand).
1) We head to Stamford Bridge with a win and a bit of confidence. Chelsea drew 2-2 with Southampton and have a terrible home record under Benitez, so anything could happen on Sunday. We have been presented with a good opportunity to get our season back on track.
2) There were a lot of empty seats. As far as I am aware, it was one of the lowest attended games that we have had at the Emirates in a while. Maybe it was just because it’s cold, or maybe because we had failed to win in our last 3 games against Swansea. Either way, the atmosphere at the Emirates was still pretty good, especially in the second half.
3) Jack Wilshere thrives in the No.10 role. Wenger gave gave Jack the No.10 shirt and it definitely suited him to play in that hole between the midfield and the defence last night. Goalscoring is the only thing that is missing from his game, and we saw a bit of what he can do last night. His goal was fantastically taken and will hopefully give him the confidence to try his luck more often when he is in the right position.
“As a team we played well and he [Jack] was in a different position; he was high up and it suits him well. He is at the complete midfielder, he can play anywhere. He is a guy who can dribble and give a final ball, so the closer he is to goal, the better it is. He has quality and enthusiasm, and love for the game. That is the most important thing to me.
“You can always improve in every area – he himself questions [his goalscoring record]. The way he took the goal was fantastic, because he didn’t think too much. Sometimes you miss the chances when you have too much time. He took his chance in a spontaneous way. It’s good that he adds that to his game, because he gets in situations where you have to finish.”
4) Wenger believes in Giroud, despite his mini goal drought. Whether Wenger believes in Giroud enough to stop him buying another striker in the next few weeks remains to be seen. In my opinion, we need another striker. Don’t get me wrong – I like Giroud. His hold up play is good, he can be a real threat and he had an ok game last night. Unfortunately, he lacks consistency. I am just not sure that he is the player that can solve all of our problems. That said, his performance against Newcastle was outstanding.
“I believe in Giroud. He is a threat and he creates chances. Let’s first try to finish the deal with Walcott and then we see what we can do from there.”
5) Francis Coquelin played well in the absence of Mikel Arteta. I doubt that Coquelin will start against Chelsea, but his performance last night certainly won’t have done him any harm. With Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rested, I imagine that Cazorla will move back into midfield for Sunday, with Diaby as the defensive midfielder.
6) Theo Walcott’s contract will be sorted out soon… It’s not like Wenger has been talking about it for a while.
“I hope it will be soon, very, very soon now. I cannot tell you much more.”