Good morning to you and happy Friday. The first week of the new year is almost over. Next thing you know it’ll be Christmas again. Argh.
Let’s start this morning with some team news ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup game with Sunderland. The manager is talking rotation, as you’d expect, but any hopes that we might have Alexis Sanchez back, even to play a small part to get him warmed up for the league fixtures ahead were dashed. The boss said:
The bad news of the week is that Alexis is not quite ready. It is a precaution because of his hamstring, and it takes a few more days. He’s not bad but he’s not ready.
I don’t think that’s altogether unexpected really. The worry is that a few more days might mean he’ll miss the trip to Anfield and, perhaps, the game against Stoke next
Saturday Sunday. Hopefully it’s just precautionary, making sure he’s 100% before he comes back, and when you consider he’s probably picked up about 18 months worth of muscle strains in one go, it’s not a surprise that he’s still sidelined. My suspicion is that we’re being ultra cautious with him to ensure he’s ready for the business end of the season.
There were no updates on Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck who have been blindfolded, taken deep into the woods, and thrown out of the car. If they survive and find their way home it was meant to be. On the others, Wenger said:
Nothing’s changed with Santi. It could be a bit shorter with him because he’s often quicker than you expect him to be. He and Coquelin are doing well.
Tomas Rosicky is not far, he’s back in full training next week, so should be available soon. Mikel Arteta is available.
He says he hasn’t yet decided whether or not to start any ‘young’ players, meaning Alex Iwobi or The Jeff as they’re the two that have been closest to first team action in recent weeks. You might also wonder if Krystian Bielik might make the squad, but beyond that it’ll be about using the players he does have to the maximum.
To my mind there’s no doubt we’ve got to give Mesut Ozil the weekend off, but given his importance to the way we play it’ll be interesting to see what he does to replace him. A front three of Campbell, Walcott and The Jeff with Oxlade-Chamberlain as the attacking central midfielder, perhaps?
I don’t know if there’s a press conference today, but if so we might get a little more insight into his thinking. We have to prioritise the Premier League, but at the same time we’re the cup holders and you do want to win every game you play in:
The thinking is to give absolutely everything to qualify. We are the holders of the cup and I know as well by experience that it is very important that you get in the competition and that you have a successful third round. It’s a tricky one, always, the third round.
Anyway, that’s why he’s paid the big bucks. With Sam Allardyce already complaining about the midweek fixtures, Jurgen Klopp’s belly and everything else, perhaps Sunderland won’t be fully switched on for this one, but we’ll find out tomorrow.
Mohamed Elneny update
Meanwhile Remi Garde, former Gunner and now manager of the quite doomed indeed Aston Villa, has revealed he’s spoken to Arsene Wenger about taking Mathieu Debuchy on loan. When you consider that he’s having to play Alan Hutton every week, I suspect he’s spoken to every manager in the world about every available right-back they might have. Frankly, if my choice was between Hutton, and a piece of dried sick shaped like a bear’s testicle, I would choose the crusty vomit. At least it would have some modicum of football intelligence.
Again we might get some more on potential comings and goings if there’s a press conference this morning. Until then some bonus reading for you. First a rather in-depth look at Olivier Giroud, and Tim Stillman’s column this week touches on the FA Cup and whether people still have an appetite for knock-out football.
Time now for today’s Arsecast, and following up on the opening show of the season I’m joined again by Ken Early from Second Captains. Ken popped into the studio this week to look at the season so far, what’s happened since we last talked, the various managerial goings-on, the title race, and how it’s gone for Arsenal up until now. I also reveal my two New Year resolutions and there’s some of the usual waffle in there too.
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Happy listening! We’ll have all the news throughout the day over on Arseblog News, back tomorrow with a full preview of the match, a live blog, and all the rest.