Saturday, 15 January 2011

Wenger silent on defenders and Oxlade-Chamberlain - Miquel out of West Ham clash

Morning Gooners.

It's back to league action for the team today and it seems like it's been so long since that 0-0 draw with Manchester City at the Grove ten days ago.

We've had the disappointment of two cup matches where we haven't been at our best and perhaps that's got something to do with being at the top of our game during the festive period and giving so much to win those games. The manager has then switched things around to ensure our players get a rest but that hasn't help keep the momentum going we've built over those successive league games.

It's important to step back and realise that our season is still very much on track. We're four points off the top of the league, in the semi-final of the Carling Cup, into the knock out stages of the Champions League and facing a tough but winnable third round replay in the FA Cup.

We've made things tougher for ourselves than they need to be, especially in the domestic cups. But life is never simple, so why should football be any different?

The manager held his pre-match press conference yesterday. The early team news which emerged was that Lukasz Fabianski had failed his fitness test so won't be available meaning Wojciech Szczesny will retain the gloves. There will also be a place on the bench for James Shea, Arsenal's fifth choice goalkeeper.

The manager said when Fabianski returns he will go straight back into the team as number one. "We live in a world of competition but for me it is clear that Fabianksi is No1," Wenger told the written press.

Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie will both return from their breaks whilst the rest of their team mates played in the domestic cups.

Denilson came through a fitness test, so will be included in the squad. However Ignasi Miquel won't be involved with the first team, as he is set to play for the Under-18s against Portsmouth.

The manager was asked about the situation regarding Manuel Almunia and his future at the club. Whilst there is a possibility he could leave during the January transfer window, it currently seems unlikely. If the Spaniard does leave, the manager will not replace him - stating we have enough goalkeepers at the club.

Whilst the manager is right we have enough keepers, letting Almunia leave whilst Mannone is on loan would be a mistake, just if the worst did happen. Shea hasn't played a first team game and while there is also high hopes for Emilio Martinez, he isn't ready for the first team either.

I think the ideal scenario is for Almunia to go in the summer, then we can take stock of where we are and where we're going in that department.

And whilst we're talking injured players - remember Almunia has an ankle injury - the manager said he hopes Thomas Vermaelen won't have to have surgery.

The Frenchman completely stonewalled questions about transfer targets and said no progress had been made in identifying a defender who he'd like to sign.

However when asked by the written press if he needs to buy to solve his injury problems the manager said
"On a short term basis you would say yes. We've got so many games that if we got another injury it would be a problem. It would be an insurance more than a need.
"When you sign someone you have to ask: 'is it a first choice or as cover?' We are very far at the moment."
Now this is where I would take issue with the manager. At the moment we have no first choice defenders apart from perhaps Johan Djourou. Would Laurent Koscielny be classed as first choice when Thomas Vermaelen eventually returns? Is Sebastien Squillaci really fourth choice?

At the moment we can't worry ourselves with who will be our first choice pairing. We need two top class defenders who are fit. If something where to happened to Djourou or Koscielny, we would be in serious trouble with both Vermaelen and Squillaci currently out injured.

The other name on the journalist's lips was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. And Wenger wouldn't talk about him either.

He did however say he wanted to keep Andrey Arshavin at the club.

Wenger said
"He will not leave. I'm very happy with Arshavin. As far as I know, he and his wife are happy in London. I'm really happy with him.
"I personally believe he is a great player. He is going through a period that's a bit difficult at the moment but he works very hard in training and I'm desperate to keep him.
"He's played every single game since the start of the season and he's also played for the national team (Russia). He is physically maybe not as fresh."
It was horrible to hear Gooners booing him when he was substituted on Wednesday night. It is something I'm very much against. Players need our support when they are on the pitch representing our club. It's clear the Russian is going through the toughest spell in his Arsenal career but I'm sure he can turn it around.

Booing him will not help.

The manager also confirmed Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi will head to the Dutch Eredivise on loan.

Finally there is a really good interview with Jack Wilshere by John Cross in the Daily Mirror. Well worth a read.

Check back later for a preview of the West Ham game which kicks off at 5.30pm.

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