15th April 2016: Wenger on team selection, Ozil and Wilshere

Happy Friday folks. With Leicester hosting a very dangerous West Ham side on Sunday and Tottenham facing a tricky trip away at Stoke City on Monday night, here’s hoping this weekend turns out far more positively for Arsenal than the last.

We host Crystal Palace on Sunday of course, and Arsene Wenger held his pre-match press conference this morning as we build up to the game. Having provided an injury update on midfielders Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain yesterday, the boss today discussed the potential involvement of two defensive players against the Eagles. He said:

I haven’t decided yet (if Per Metersacker will play). We are 48 hours away from the game so I will see. I have not decided that (who will play n goal). When it is decided I will have to inform the people first. Petr Cech is our No 1 but Ospina is also a fantastic goalkeeper. His numbers are absolutely exceptional in the Premier League. I felt that Petr Cech had only had one week of training (before the West Ham match last weekend) and was only just coming back.

Translated, that to me says Petr Cech will definitely start this weekend and Per Mertesacker’s a maybe, but if I was forced to guess, I’d say both will play from the off with David Ospina and Gabriel making way obviously. We’ll see.

Aside from team selection, Arsene also touched on various other topics, and I’ll start with his thoughts on Mesut Ozil’s nomination for the PFA Player of the Year award. He said:

He has been more efficient [this season]. I think he has created more chances and has scored more goals especially. I believe in a guy like Ozil, you see 10 to 15 goals, and I hope he will get to 10 at the end of the season but that is always what you think he should get. [When it comes to] providing chances, he is miles ahead on assists and combining the goalscoring with the assists means he deserves this award.

Whilst it’s true Mesut’s way out in front in terms of assists in this season’s Premier League with 18 (Riyad Mahrez is second on 12), for combined goals and assists (Ozil has 6 goals) the German is only joint fourth overall with Romelu Lukaku (18 goals and 6 assists).

The top three most productive players are Jamie Vardy (21 and 11), Mahrez (16 and 12) and Arsenal fan Harry Kane (22 and 3). So as much as I would love Ozil to be recognized for his assist-laden individual campaign, it has to be one of the Leicester pair in honesty. I’d give it to Vardy for what it’s worth.

Finally for this evening, the boss discussed Wilshere’s imminent return to the first-team fold having missed the entire season so far through injury. Having made a second appearance for our under 21s recently, the England international is penciled in to make a third on Monday night at West Brom, with Arsene saying the midfielder still needs more competitive game-time:

I think he needs one more game at least. He will play again with the under-21s on Monday. He should be involved in that. Then I will have to see how he compares to the other competitors in the first team. Once he is through three or four games then of course you consider him.

As I mentioned the other day, considering how late we are in the season it’s unlikely we’ll see Wilshere back to his best in an Arsenal shirt before the next campaign, and if we do, it’ll probably be as an impact sub late in games – a little like the end of last season.

But if he can go to the European Championships and enjoy a successful summer in France with England, perhaps that would go a long way in building confidence and helping him overcome any psychological barriers following such a lengthy layoff.

See you on Saturday.

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