Arsène Wenger will make a late decision on whether to include Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Debuchy in Arsenal’s squad to take on Liverpool on Saturday, but suggested Danny Welbeck could be fit. Arsenal go into the match at the Emirates Stadium with a six-point advantage over Liverpool in the battle for a Champions League place, and have been boosted by an easing of their injury problems over the international break. On Tuesday, Wilshere, Debuchy and captain Mikel Arteta all played for an Arsenal XI against Brentford after long periods on the sidelines.
“They’ve all been involved and trained well, with no problem after that coming out of the game, so that’s good news,” Wenger said in his press conference on Thursday. “They’re back available in training, a bit short still of top competitive level certainly, but that’s normal, they’ve been out for a long time. But I was quite surprised by how fit they looked, and the quality of their performance was good.”
Wenger revealed that he “hadn’t decided” whether either Wilshere or Debuchy would feature against Liverpool. And, with Arsenal in fine form in the Premier League before the recent break, he is unlikely to feel overly pressured to rush them back. Wilshere is likely to be treated with particular caution, having been out since November with ankle problems. Wenger did stress, however, that having close to a full squad fit would be a welcome boost for the decisive climax to the season.
“You want everybody available and back in the final months to compete at the top level,” he said. “Consistency will play a big part in the success of the team, and to have everybody available can help.”
His team on Saturday could yet include Welbeck. The former Manchester United forward was forced to miss England’s friendly against Italy on Tuesday after suffering a knee injury after scoring in his country’s 4-0 win over Lithuania last week.
“Danny Welbeck came back with a slight knee injury, it looks like he has a little chance to be available for Saturday’s team,” Wenger said.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is now the only confirmed absentee for this weekend as he continues to nurse his hamstring injury. Indeed, even Abou Diaby is a surprise contender to be involved against Liverpool. The midfielder has played just 66 minutes of first-team action this season as he continues to battle injuries that have limited him to only two appearances in the past two years.
But Diaby also played for 45 minutes for the Arsenal XI this week and is now fighting to get his career back on track once again. Whether that will be at the Emirates remains to be seen. The France international will be out of contract in the summer, and Wenger has said that talks are still ongoing about a new deal, suggesting a pay-as-you-play offer had been made to the 28-year-old.
“I had a chat with him and told him how I can envisage the future, he has to make a decision,” he explained. “Of course he understands completely that he has to perform and show that he can be present on a consistent way. I will see where we go from there.
“I wouldn’t like to go into details, because we have to meet again to see where we go from what I told him. It has to be linked a little bit with his presence.”