Welcome back. Arsene Wenger’s pre-Watford press conference was streamed live on the official site this morning (a nice surprise and I hope this real-time relaying becomes the norm rather than remaining just for FA Cup games) and in it, the boss revealed Aaron Ramsey would be out for around four weeks with the thigh injury he picked up at Hull.
Given Arsene had labelled it a ‘small alert’ only yesterday, the Welshman’s prognosis is longer than anticipated, but with Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla penciled in for returns at the start of April, we should be far better stocked for options in the middle of the park pretty soon, so that’s some consolation I suppose.
For now though, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny are the most likely partnership to be picked at the base of our midfield and when asked if the latter was ready to play regularly, and if he’d consider a change of formation to cope with our injury list, the boss said:
He looks like he is ready to play. I consider every formula that is possible to give us a balance. At the moment I think Elneny in central midfield can cope. We have Flamini, we have Coquelin who can cope as well. They have shown [that] already. The formula can change as well if needed but that depends on the games. Every game will be different now. In our job, you want to perform in the next game and the next game is an important one because we have fought hard to get there and that is our purpose. After that we deal with the next one. If you have a good run, you sometimes absorb them without any problems. If you have a bad result, of course there is no time to digest sometimes and to get the belief back in the squad. We want to do that and what is very important is to be in there and have a chance to show how good you are.
Arsene was also asked to assess the qualities of Sunday’s opponents Watford and highlighted the Hornets’ striker partnership as being particularly impressive, saying:
They have two strikers who are very efficient in Ighalo and Deeney and we worked very hard to control the game [last time we played them]. They have a very good understanding between their strikers and the quality between our two centre backs will be vital on Sunday. Watford have done extremely well. It looks like the Championship teams that come up now deal very well with the Premier League regime. The difficulty [for us] is that Watford have a team who are very solid defensively. They are also a team who are athletically very strong and the basis of their game is on efficiency and waiting for the right moment to be very dangerous.
Finally for today, the boss also had some words for his own strikers and revealed he expects Olivier Giroud to deliver more goals in the coming games having broken a 12-match drought by bagging a brace in our win at Hull earlier this week. He said:
Look, it is a weight on the shoulders when the players don’t score. So the fact that they score will of course take that weight off. Overall, I am pleased that [Giroud and Walcott] scored. But it is a bit cyclic always, especially for Giroud. Giroud has cycles so it was a weight off his shoulders. You know this season for example, he has had games where he has gone boom, boom, boom, boom, boom and after he had a little spell where he didn’t score. Now I hope he has a repetition of his former spell and starts to score again. Between what he says and what is real, even I don’t really know what is going in there. You know that if you don’t score and you are a striker, somewhere you are not happy.
Right. A bit brief this evening but that’s your lot. See you on Saturday for a Watford preview.