Happy Friday folks. Arsene Wenger held his usual pre-match press conference this morning, as we prepare for Sunday’s trip to Aston Villa, and revealed the latest team news ahead of the game.
We have no fresh injury concerns following Wednesday night’s win over Olympiacos, but none of our injured players are yet ready to return either. The closest, says the boss, are Mikel Arteta and Alexis Sanchez but the others are some way off a comeback yet. He said:
We came back Thursday morning, so we will see the players today. We have no injuries after the game. (Alexis Sanchez and Mikel Arteta are) short-term injuries, neither will be available for Sunday. No Arteta and no Alexis – who is the shortest one. The others will be (available) after Christmas. If you ask me if he (Jack Wilshere) will be fit before the end of December, no chance. He (Tomas Rosicky) is quite positive. He is running outside but not ready yet. End of January.
There were reports a few weeks ago that Wilshere had provisionally penciled in the Boxing Day trip to Southampton as his comeback game but the boss’ update today was pretty emphatic in ruling the midfielder out until the New Year, so that’s obviously disappointing, particularly with Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla ruled out until March at the earliest.
Our only other ‘long-termer’ is Danny Welbeck of course, and there was no word from the boss on the former Manchester United man’s likely return date from a knee injury which had ruled him out for the last seven months or so. But the player himself spoke to Arsenal Player recently, discussing his injury lay-off and also his ‘honour’ at being able to cite both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger as managers he’s played under. He said:
Both (managers) have that presence and both are legends in the modern game. What can I say? They have won plenty of trophies between them and I have worked under Sir Alex and Arsène Wenger and it is a great honour to say that, but I want to be the best that I can be. I definitely feel free. Before we go out against a team we have analysed before hand (Arsène Wenger) gives the team a few pointers of what he wants us to be doing on the pitch and the lads stick to that. But he also gives you the freedom to express yourself and play the way you want to play. It is my first injury that has kept me out for so long. I had my operation and once that is sorted you can be out for a few more months. For the first month, in a leg brace, not being able to do anything, on a machine six hours a day, it was very difficult. But you have to try and see the positives. Luckily I had my family around me, my friends came down to London and I had my brothers. It was good to have people around me and have that support. You wake up in the morning and know you have double sessions in the gym it is hard but you have to see the positive side and I have learnt a lot more being injured on how to look after your body and prevent injuries. I have to see the positive side and hopefully when I come back, I will be flying.
I have to say Welbeck’s return is the one I’m most looking forward to, simply because I rate him higher than most others seem to and as Arsenal fans we’ve not seen much of him since he joined. He made an impressive start to his Arsenal career, then got injured, came back briefly, got injured again, and we’ve now not seen him play since April. Obviously I’m not saying he’s more important than Sanchez or Cazorla or Coquelin, because he’s not, but I genuinely think he could develop into a prolific striker for us given time to learn under Arsene and providing he can stay injury free.
Speaking of strikers, our current incumbent Olivier Giroud will go into the game at Villa having just scored his first-ever hat-trick for the club, in the most important game of our season so far, and Arsene discussed his fellow countryman’s qualities earlier today, saying:
He has gone through this calendar year with ups and downs but overall it is typical Olivier Giroud. That means when it doesn’t work, he puts effort in. I believe recently he has come back with an improved game and with his finishing. Wednesday was one of his best performances on all fronts, I must say. If you look at his record, I believe he has special qualities that are difficult to find. You want him to be efficient as well. Where he has improved a lot is his link play with the other players, and that’s very important in our team. He’s a guy who wants always to improve and he has a positive mentality, and a strong one. You want him to be efficient as well. Where he has improved a lot is his link play with the other players, and that’s very important in our team. He’s a guy who wants always to improve and he has a positive mentality, and a strong one. I think that’s why he has come back in a very strong way. We are in a job where you have to accept that in every game, you are questioned. In his job, as a centre forward, [it’s] even more. If you don’t score for three games, you’re questioned again. That’s part of the job. If you look at the number of games and the number of goals, you have to give him credit. He’s not only a goalscorer, he’s a guy who puts work in for the team. I think he’s among the best strikers in Europe.
I really like Giroud and appreciate what he brings to our side, but let’s not get carried away, hey. He’s not in Robert Lewandowski’s class, for instance, and probably never will reach that kind of level given his age, but than he’s also not a clumsy lump like some would have you believe. He’s a very, very effective lone striker for us but one I still think can be improved on.
Anyway, given he’s just bagged a treble and played brilliantly to win us a crucial game, perhaps now’s not the best time to talk about his perceived defects as a striker or potential replacements. I’ll just say that with him, Theo Walcott and Welbeck all fit, I’m actually quite content with our striking options, especially with the mercurial talent of Sanchez backing them up from the left. Defensive midfield is where I’d like more options …
Back with a preview of the Villa game at some stage tomorrow.
Have a good one.