Wembley hero Ramsey winning race to face Manchester City

23 February 2018 10:53

Aaron Ramsey is set to hand Arsenal a fitness boost for Sunday's EFL Cup final against Manchester City.

Ramsey missed the north London derby defeat to Tottenham with a groin problem earlier this month and also sat out Thursday's Europa League match against Ostersunds.

But the Wales international midfielder, who scored the winning goal in the 2014 and 2017 FA Cup finals is on course to feature in another Wembley showpiece against Premier League leaders City

"I have until Saturday to make a decision on Aaron Ramsey," manager Arsene Wenger told a pre-match news conference.

"He looks to be available but he has another test today."

In further good news for Wenger, playmaker Mesut Ozil's recovery from a bout of illness has remained on track.

"I saw him this morning, he had a good session yesterday," Wenger said of the Germany international. "We have to see how he responds but I think he will be alright."

Fellow midfielder Alex Iwobi limped off against Ostersunds and must be assessed, while his team-mates are nursing a case of bruised pride after losing 2-1 to the Swedish minnows on the night – a comprehensive 3-0 first-leg win serving to spare the Gunners from any greater embarrassment.

Wenger conceded that comfortable advantage and a looming Wembley engagement played an understandable part in his much-changed side failing to perform and expects far higher standards at the weekend.

"I don't have any speculation on any weakness of Manchester City," he said, despite Pep Guardiola's men coming into the game on the back of an FA Cup humbling at League One Wigan Athletic.

"We know to beat them we have to be at a different level, different focus and different quality of performance.

"Yes, certainly [Arsenal are the underdogs] but, overall, we know that despite that it's absolutely vital that we perform at our best."

Wenger sees Welbeck emerging from torrid struggles

22 February 2018 12:20

Arsene Wenger has seen indications Danny Welbeck can rediscover his best form for Arsenal and England.

Welbeck has suffered an injury nightmare over recent seasons having been struck down by two serious knee injuries – one to each leg – in 2015 and 2016.

The arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette at Arsenal this term means the former Manchester United man's opportunities to play at centre-forward look likely to be limited, but he will have another chance in his favoured position in the Europa League against Ostersunds on Thursday.

"I want to keep him because I believe he has gone through a torrid time," Wenger told reporters, with Welbeck out of contract at the end of next season.

"He has come out well. I see signs in training now that are positive. If he can stay on the pitch and not be injured, I want him to stay here.

"Even with a muscular injury you lose it [faith in your body] quickly. One of the advantages of being young is that you feel indestructible. It gives you an arrogance.

"Sometimes the players are very confident, very arrogant but as soon as they lose that belief in their body, suddenly you are lost and you don't know any more what is going on."

Welbeck completed 83 fairly uneventful minutes in Arsenal's 3-0 win over Ostersunds in the first leg of their round-of-32 tie but Wenger believes coming through a game on the Swedish side's artificial pitch marked an important step for the 27-year-old.


"Ostersunds was a good test for him because you would think the player you don't want to pick on an artificial pitch would be him because of his history," he said.

"He came through well and I think for him, in his head, it was very important that he came out of that game without having any problems."

If Welbeck can continue to progress, Wenger maintains he should not be discounted as an option for England at the World Cup in Russia.

"He might not be a goalscorer like Harry Kane for example, but for England he can perfectly play with Harry Kane because he plays on the flanks," he added.

"There was a time when I remember he played for England in Switzerland and he looked absolutely marvellous. He was already here [then] and he is a player we all want and would like to come back.

"I see signs of him now in training where he is like that period. It's difficult to imagine a guy who has basically been one and a half years out. At his age, that's absolutely dramatic."


Wenger not expecting wholesale changes for Ostersunds second leg

16 February 2018 00:43

Arsene Wenger does not expect to make wholesale changes when Arsenal welcome Ostersunds to London for the second leg of their last-32 Europa League tie.

Nacho Monreal, Mesut Ozil and a Sotirios Papagiannopoulos own goal ensured the Gunners took a comfortable lead from their trip to Sweden, although goalkeeper David Ospina had to save a late penalty from Tom Pettersson.

With Arsenal eight points outside the Champions League qualification places in the Premier League, the Europa League may be their best route to qualifying for the continent's elite club competition – the winners going straight into the group stage.

And although Arsenal have an EFL Cup final appearance at Wembley against Manchester City to prepare for on February 25, three days after Ostersunds head to the Emirates Stadium, Wenger is not considering major rotation to his squad.

"I don't think I will rest [players], I will try to win the game again," said Wenger, who named a strong starting line-up despite being without unavailable strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

"Maybe rotate, play the players who didn't play and rest one or two who played.

"I think we adapted quite well to the [artificial] pitch. They were maybe a bit cautious at the start and we took advantage of it and took control of the game once we opened the scoring.

"At 2-0 at half-time I think that it was important for us not to concede a goal and win the second half. In the second half there was maybe room to score one or two more but we were in control and once we went 3-0 up we did not push on, and we won in a comfortable way."

Ospina, named captain for the game, ensured the Gunners maintained a three-goal advantage for next week's return game by denying Pettersson from 12 yards after Hector Bellerin brought down substitute Tesfaldet Tekie.

"For me it was important not to tarnish our performance tonight," Wenger said of Petr Cech's deputy keeping a clean sheet. "We were a bit too easy in that situation [conceding the penalty] and it would have left a bitter taste.

"The risk at the start was that I didn't know how tough the pitch would be for our players. We have no game on the weekend [Arsenal having been knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round] so that was an easier decision.

"The only risk was injury, overall I am happy there was no problem. The pitch was quite good."

Henrikh Mkhitaryan impressed with a busy midfield display as the Armenia international continues to settle into life at Arsenal after moving from Manchester United in a swap deal that saw Alexis Sanchez switch to Old Trafford.

"He has worked very hard, I think it was a positive performance," Wenger said of Mkhitaryan, who provided the assist for Ozil's goal.

"He adapts slowly to the team. He had a positive game."