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Granit Xhaka's poor disciplinary record isn't a concern for Arsene Wenger

By Matt Gatward

It might have looked late but it was, in fact, perfectly timed. Arsenal's £35m summer signing Granit Xhaka fully intended to upend Swansea's Modou Barrow on Saturday - a "tackle" that earned him a straight red card.

It would have been more worrying for Arsenal if he had actually been going for the ball but the fact that it is Xhaka's eighth dismissal since April 2014 should be a worry. Not to Arsene Wenger though.

"It is one red card," the Arsenal manager said yesterday ahead of his side's Champions League match with Ludogorets at the Emirates Stadium tonight.

"We are not responsible for the reds he got elsewhere. He made a foul that could have got him a yellow, that could have got him a red and it was not meant to hurt anybody. It was just a late tackle to stop the counter-attack that has been punished. He is intelligent enough to analyse that as well."

Xhaka could be included against Ludogorets as Arsenal seek to win their sixth game in a row given that he is banned for Saturday's league match at home to Middlesbrough.

However, the holding midfield role could also go to Francis Coquelin. He is returning from an injury sustained when he clashed with N'Golo Kante of Chelsea.

It was originally feared the midfielder could be missing for three months but he made his return against Swansea from the bench.

"I feel 100 per cent fit," he said. "It took me a few weeks to get back to full fitness, but now I feel good.

"The good thing was that I could run back onto the pitch afterwards, even if I couldn't stay on for long. The scan which followed was all positive."

Coquelin has been a regular in the Arsenal side for the past 18 months but he is under pressure after the January arrival of Mohamed Elneny and the summer signing of Xhaka. It does not faze the 25-year-old though.

"We are Arsenal Football Club," he said. "There's always going to be great quality in this squad. You have to be ready for a fight. It's good for me to improve."

With Ludogorets and Basel away and Paris Saint-Germain at home to come in the second half of the group fixtures, it is key to get three points tonight. It would take Arsenal to seven points and with one foot in the knock-out stages.

They will have to get them without striker Olivier Giroud and midfielder Aaron Ramsey who are both still recovering from injuries.

Wenger may also rest in-form Theo Walcott, despite his recent goalscoring efforts. The manager also revealed he had not contemplated selling the winger.

Wenger added: "I haven't spoken to anybody because I always wanted to keep him.

"He plays with freedom and more desire. He is a completely different player."

  • Arsenal v Ludogorets, Champions League Group A: Emirates Stadium , Tonight, 7.45pm

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