Take Your Boots, You’re Playing
That seems to be the order of the day for the travelling support going to Deepdale tomorrow. Preston North End host Arsenal in the FA Cup third round but it seems it might be an EFL Cup side which takes to the field. It isn’t through choice either: the injury list is looking horrific and desperate not to add to his woes, Arsène Wenger is taking extra precautions with his XI.
According to the usually reliable Physioroom, the treatment room at the Emirates is beginning to resemble the waiting room at the local A&E department. Santi Cazorla is still months away from a return rather than weeks, Coquelin and Mertesacker are out for three to four weeks with Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott looking at next weekend. Not even Mesut Özil can bring a smile to our faces; an uncomfortable grimace, maybe, as Arsène revealed the German was suffering from ‘Man Flu’ and no-one was sure whether he would recover in time for tomorrow’s match. It would seem he didn’t train today which is a worrying sign.
Alexis Sanchez is being given a rest tomorrow. Having barely missed a minute’s football all season, the Chilean is shattered. Not that he’d admit it according to Wenger. “Alexis wants always to play,” he said, “and on one side when I don’t play him, people say ‘why don’t you play him?’ and on the other hand, I am criticised for using him too much.”
It’s a tough life being a Premier League manager. You can only please some of the people some of the time, etc.
The XI which is not taking the field tomorrow is quite impressive. Laurent Koscielny, Arsène revealed, is also suffering from fatigue and with Petr Cech making way for David Ospina, the XI staying at home is:
Not quite our strongest XI but not far off it.
The bright spot, if there is such a thing after delivering hooks and uppercuts to your expectations, is that Lucas Perez may make it. He has a knock on his ankle which will dictate how long Danny Welbeck plays for. Arsène confirmed that the England international will start on the bench but with Chuba Akpom making his return to action with the Under-23s in the match against Derby on Friday, it seems Arsenal have few options beyond Olivier Giroud to lead the line.
Welbeck hasn’t played in nine months and while Wenger would prefer to reintroduce him via the Academy sides, it seems this isn’t going to be possible. The good news is that Perez trained today and with no apparent sign of worsening his condition, looks set to appear in Lancashire.
Arsène is no doubt grateful that Nigeria failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations as he would be without the recently-crowned CAF Young Player of the Year. The award marks a momentous year in Alex Iwobi’s career.
So when you get ready to catch the train tomorrow, remember that as well as your wallet, keys and tickets, you need your boots. Just in case, like.