Belfast Telegraph

Wenger remains silent over keepers

Arsene Wenger revealed Manuel Almunia was left hurt by his blunder in Arsenal's last Barclays Premier League outing at West Brom - but refused to confirm whether he would now axe the Spanish goalkeeper in favour of veteran Jens Lehmann.

Almunia, 33, was thrust back into the first team following a finger injury to Wojciech Szczesny in the Nou Camp, which saw the young Pole join Lukasz Fabianski on the sidelines and would lead to Lehmann answering Wenger's SOS to come out of retirement at 41.

However, despite performing well in what turned out to be a 3-1 defeat against Barcelona which ended Arsenal's Champions League ambitions for another season, Almunia left himself open to criticism after a terrible mix-up with stand-in centre-back Sebastien Squillaci at The Hawthorns. "What can you say? The player knows it was the wrong decision," Wenger told Arsenal TV Online.

He added: "In big games, it hurts because that was a massive game for us and it hurts him of course." On whether he would now make a change, Wenger stressed: "I do not want to make a public debate of that.

"I believe for every game you consider three days before the game who will play in the next match."

Lehmann and Almunia were among a handful of senior players still at London Colney during the international break.

Wenger hopes captain Cesc Fabregas, midfielder Alex Song and England forward Theo Walcott will all have recovered full match fitness over the fortnight.

Arsenal will be well represented when England take on Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, with Jack Wilshere expected to be in involved as Aaron Ramsey leads his country out for the first time. Striker Nicklas Bendtner looks set to feature for Denmark against Norway having suffered a scare earlier in the week when he needed an ice pack on his ankle.

Wenger believes a change of scene could do his battle-weary squad the world of good after a testing spell which saw them lose the Carling Cup final, go out of Europe and then the FA Cup at Old Trafford.

"After such a demanding and stressful three weeks we had, it is not so bad the players focus on something different for a while and come back refreshed," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph