Arsenal v Wolves: Arsenal ‘cannot afford to drop points now’
By Jonny Payne
Arsenal will field a team shorn of many regulars as they take on Wolves on Saturday as injuries have again taken hold in what has become an all too familiar state of affairs for the Gunners this season.
Just when the queue outside Arsenal physio, Colin Lewin’s, treatment room was starting to diminish, three more Arsenal players join the likes of Robin van Persie, Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Johann Djourou on the treatment table.
Andrey Arshavin (calf) and William Gallas (calf) were both taken off in the first half against Barcelona in midweek and will be out for three and five weeks respectively. Cesc Fabregas, who finished the game limping with what is now known to be a broken leg, will miss the rest of the season.
It is Arsenal’s third broken leg of the season following Samir Nasri’s in pre-season and Aaron Ramsey’s horrific leg-break in February. The team’s misfortune seems endless.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger remains optimistic despite the growing injury list:
“It was bad news for us because to lose a player of his [Fabregas] touch of course is difficult and we will need to fight together even more to overcome that. Now of course we have no Arshavin, no Fabregas, no Gallas and no Van Persie available; it’s a lot but we want to focus on our targets and still achieve them,” he said.
Wenger added: “But that’s why the big clubs have big squads, no matter what happens we cannot complain because we have the luxury to have 20 players of the same level or nearly the same. Of course in every squad, though, you have two or three personalities who are a bit more dominant.”
Arsenal will have to continue without their casualties, as they face an in-form Wolves team in a must-win match tomorrow, with Arsene Wenger stating that Arsenal have to win all of their remaining games.
The Arsenal manager said: “I’m still quite confident but of course we know now that we cannot afford to drop points now.”
What’s more, the Wolves game will be seen as one of the few chances to decrease the gap in goal difference between their title rivals Manchester United and Chelsea, who meet each other in the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday.
If the early game finishes in a draw, Arsenal will have the chance to close the gap to just two points. With five games remaining, Arsenal would be firmly in the thick of the title race once more.
Wenger said: “First of all our main target is to win our games, but tomorrow’s game is an opportunity to catch one of the teams, or two of the teams with a draw, but anyway the main target is for us to win our game.”
Far from struggling at the foot of the table, Wolves have been in blistering form in recent weeks picking up eight points from the last four matches, including wins at West Ham and Burnley and draws with high-flying Aston Villa and Everton. The West Midlands outfit had only gained 24 points from 28 games prior to their hot-streak.
Wolves now sit five points above the relegation zone and it is unlikely that their manager Mick McCarthy will rest his first team regulars for this match like he did earlier in the season at Old Trafford.
The likes of Matt Jarvis, Nenad Milijas and Kevin Doyle have finally settled into the Premiership and they can be very dangerous on their day.
Wenger is urging caution ahead of the encounter:
“Wolves are on a good run, we are on a good run, but I believe that this game demands 100 per cent focus,” he said.
Wenger added: “Nobody beats Wolves at the moment just turning up and thinking it will be an easy game, they play well and they are on a good run as well. It will be interesting and it will show as well how much focus we can bring into a game like that.”
The Frenchman will rotate some of his players ahead of the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final at the Nou Camp on Tuesday.
Theo Walcott, who almost single-handedly hauled Arsenal back into Wednesday night’s match, will be given a run-out, with Wenger hinting he may hand the winger a start against Wolves.
“The target for Theo is to be an regular player. He started the game at Birmingham he has a good chance to start again tomorrow. I believe that these kind of games you win with a squad, most of the time they battle so hard that after 70 minutes when the level drops a little bit, players who have quality can come on and make a difference.”
Bacary Sagna’s poor performance against Barcelona could mean that Emmanuel Eboue starts at right-back, as he often does against teams in the lower reaches of the Premier League, and Armand Traore could come in for Gael Clichy who has been declared fit but has been struggling with an ankle injury from mid-week.
Denilson, who also picked up a small injury against Barcelona, is in the squad and could start in place of Alex Song. He will be joined in midfield by Samir Nasri, who will replace the injured Fabregas.
With Bendtner expected to start against Barcelona on Tuesday, Eduardo could also get a chance to impress in place of the Dane, while Thomas Rosicky should replace Arshavin on the wing, and Sol Campbell should return to partner Thomas Vermaelen in defence in the absence of William Gallas.
Eboue Campbell Vermaelen Traore
Subs: Fabianski, Sagna, Silvestre, Bendtner, Vela, Song, Clichy
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