West Brom v Arsenal
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident midfielder Jack Wilshere can return stronger from the setback of facing three months out with an ankle injury.
The England international this week had surgery to repair ligament damage following a tackle by Manchester United defender Paddy McNair during the Premier League match on November 22.
Wilshere is now set for another frustrating spell on the sidelines, having seen his progress hampered by various problems before and at one point being absent from the Arsenal first team for around 17 months after suffering a stress fracture in his ankle during 2011.
Wenger, though, has no doubts the 22-year-old has the strength of character to overcome his latest challenge.
“He is very down. Jack is a football man who loves the game, but on the other hand, he is a very strong character as well and he has learnt to deal with adversity at a very young age,” said Wenger, who has a host of fitness concerns ahead of today’s lunchtime kick-off at West Brom.
“I think he will be back at the end of February, beginning of March, and he will focus on coming back to rehab, having a strong rehab, and then I am sure he will help us to do well until the end of the season.
“Jack always came out stronger and, when I spoke with him, the final sprint of the season is already in his mind and [he wants] to come back stronger. He is prepared and focused to come back and finish the season well.”
Wenger believes Wilshere can shrug of the latest in what has been a long line of injuries to hamper his progress.
“I was more worried one year ago than I am today because he had two or three surgeries on his right ankle. At some stage, you could raise that question, but today I am much more confident that he will [fulfil his potential],” Wenger said.
“If he has no problem with his joints, he will make a massive career.”
While Wenger feels McNair’s challenge was “very bad”, he accepts it was “not malicious”.
He said: “When you see it again, I don’t think that anybody would have escaped without surgery in this tackle.”
Wenger does not expect Wilshere’s dynamic playing style to change.
“It is his strong point to turn, run at people and be committed — you don’t want to take that away from him,” he said.
Arsenal will look to bring in “at least one body” to bolster the depleted squad, Wenger confirmed, with a defensive midfielder the expected target with centre-half Laurent Koscielny fit again and full-back Mathieu Debuchy close to a return from his long injury lay-off.
Wenger, though, stated there had been “no enquiry from anybody” for Germany forward Lukas Podolski and denied a move for Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
The Arsenal manager conceded, however, the set-up of the side would have to be changed, given the loss of captain Mikel Arteta to another calf injury, adding to an already packed treatment room.
“I will adapt because I lost two players who can play in a defensive area in our midfield.
Wenger is confident Arsenal can use their midweek Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund to kick-start the Premier League campaign.
“Even in the games we lost, there was something happening in the team. That, for a manager, is the most important thing,” he said.
“I am very positive about this team because there is something special in there and we just have to keep going.”
Saido Berahino is available for West Brom despite the revelations of his arrest for alleged drink-driving.
West Brom boss Alan Irvine said: “I’ve had a football chat with him and as far as I am concerned his head is in the right place and he’s certainly trained very well.”
Wenger jinxed by injury woes
As hostages to fortunes go, it was a whopper.
“I believe we are at the end of the tunnel,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger declared at the start of the month in relation to the Gunners’ notorious injury woes. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Arsenal go into today’s trip to West Brom with 10 players — including two goalkeepers in Wojciech Szczesny and David Ospina — unavailable. Laurent Koscielny’s return eases Arsenal’s defensive problems, though Mathieu Debuchy is still out. But Wenger must do without a midfield quintet of Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil, while Yaya Sanogo is absent from the attack and Danny Welbeck is doubtful.
That light at the end of the tunnel must have been an oncoming train...
— Darren Norris
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