Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Gunners problems mounting up

The fitness of Theo Walcott is a concern for Arsenal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger revealed his plans for Saturday's north London derby against Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium have been thrown into chaos with a string of players battling injury.

The Gunners host their fierce rivals in need of a confidence boost following a dip in form which has seen them win only two in the previous seven Barclays Premier League games.

However, Wenger indicated preparations for the match had been hampered by fitness concerns over key men like Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta and in-form striker Olivier Giroud, who has returned from midweek international action with France carrying back and hamstring problems. "There are so many - I think we need a few doctors," Wenger said.

"We have so many players who have come back with injuries or small injuries. We will see, but it is difficult to give you a clear idea of who will be available or not."

Arsenal will also assess goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who could be back in the side for the first time since September after recovering from an ankle problem, while midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hip) is another who will be monitored.

Wenger revealed there were also concerns over whether to throw Bacary Sagna into action once again following the France full-back's return from a broken leg. Midfielder Jack Wilshere should come back into the side after he was suspended for the Fulham game, provided he shows no ill-effects from his England appearance in Stockholm.

Wenger, however, was less than impressed by the globe-trotting of midfielder Santi Cazorla, who jetted out to Panama with Spain only to be an unused substitute.

"They had 30 degrees there, so it was (good for) sunbathing," the Arsenal boss said. "What do I make of it? At the moment, if you are selected you have to go, unless you say you're injured. I understand completely that in Spain, the competition is so high that if a guy turns it down and there is suspicion there, the next time he will not be called up.

"Could Cazorla have done without that trip? Of course. He could have got injured, so I personally don't complain, but he must not be very happy."

Wenger continued: "It will be interesting to see who will play over the weekend and who will not play, of all those who have been injured over Europe. I would personally put £10 on 90 per cent playing. It is difficult as well for the national coach, but it shows you one thing - that this international friendly is not in the best position."