Arsenal could be without Danny Welbeck for the trip to Southampton on New Year’s Day, while Aaron Ramsey will remain sidelined by a hamstring problem. Welbeck suffered a thigh injury after scoring Arsenal’s second goal in their 2-1 win at West Ham on Sunday, with manager Arsene Wenger admitting in his press conference ahead of the clash at St Mary’s that the England forward “could be short for Thursday.” It means that Arsenal could face a lack of options up front, with Olivier Giroud serving the second game of this three-match suspension for a headbutt against Queens Park Rangers on Boxing Day.
Arsenal’s first match of 2015 will definitely be without Ramsey. There were hopes that the midfielder would be fit for the tail-end of the festive program after picking up an injury against Galatasaray three weeks ago. However, with Ramsey having suffered several setbacks on the road back from what was initially thought to have been a minor thigh complaint this time a year ago, Wenger has revealed that no risks will be taken on this occasion.
“Ramsey is not available yet, no,” he said. “There is no setback. It’s a bit slower than I expected it to be. Because last year he had a setback we have to be very cautious, with his thigh he was out for three months. And we have to be a bit more cautious than we would like to be.”
Fellow midfielders Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere remain out with their own injuries, meaning that Francis Coquelin could again be in the starting lineup having made his first Premier League appearance for Arsenal since April 2013 on Sunday. After an assured display, Wenger was asked whether the 23-year-old, only just recalled from a loan spell at Championship side Charlton Athletic, can be a long-term option as a holding midfielder for the Gunners.
“I believe he has the potential but he has played one game so it’s a bit early to judge that,” he said. “He will make a career and hopefully he will make it here. I want to give him credit because he kept his focus and his work rate in training at a very high level during all those periods when he didn’t play. And when he went to Charlton he had a very good spell there as well.”
With such a hectic run of fixtures, which also sees Arsenal host Hull City in the FA Cup on Sunday, Wenger will need as much as his squad as possible at his disposal, although he explained that correctly judging squad rotation is key.
“Rotation is a sensitive subject because you can destabilize your team with too much rotation,” he said. “So you have to find the right numbers of rotating the team. Overall you want to keep the balance of the team and as well refresh sometimes the players in positions where the players are a bit tired.”
Wenger confirmed he will definitely make one change on Thursday, with Tomas Rosicky set to come back into the side after being rested for the 2-1 win at Upton Park. The veteran Czech could well replace Welbeck, with Wenger again cautioning that Theo Walcott remains short of match sharpness after having barely featuring in 2014.
“Walcott is involved because he was already in the squad,” he said. “Of course, I judge him a bit short on the competition front, on the fitness front he’s ready to play.”