A defeat to Swansea means that Arsenal’s trip to Old Trafford on Sunday suddenly has renewed importance for Champions League qualification. But the Gunners look set to go into the showdown against their long-time rivals without their former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck. The £16-million arrival has been missing for three weeks with a knee injury, and, despite optimism that he would be able to return at his former home, Wenger has suggested those chances are slim.
“Danny Welbeck has a little possibility to be fit,” he told Arsenal’s official website on Thursday. “Maybe Welbeck will be available but at the moment he looks short.”
Arsenal sit third in the Premier League table, two points clear of Manchester United and with the benefit of a game in hand. Yet Monday’s 1-0 loss to Swansea, Arsenal’s first Premier League defeat in three months, means they will now be somewhat nervously looking over their shoulders hoping to avoid finishing fourth and having to face another playoff to make the Champions League group phase.
Still there looks unlikely to be a change to the starting lineup that Wenger has named for the last five matches, particularly with none of Arsenal’s other absentees back available. Mikel Arteta has been out for six months battling calf and ankle problems, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has not played since injuring his groin in the FA Cup quarterfinal against Manchester United in March, while Mathieu Debuchy has sat out the past three weeks due to a hamstring problem. And Wenger could not confirm that any of the trio would return in time for the climax of the season, in the FA Cup against Aston Villa on May 30.
“I don't know how long the others will be out for, it's difficult to say, but hopefully they will play again this season” he said.
Wenger also revealed that Aaron Ramsey has not been in training since playing the full 90 minutes against Swansea, although he expects him to be back fully involved on Friday. The Welsh midfielder had been a doubt ahead of Monday’s fixture after taking a heavy kick in the previous match against Hull City. If, as expected, Ramsey is clear to play at Old Trafford, he will likely continue in the right-wing role he has occupied in recent weeks due to the exceptional performances of Santi Cazorla in the middle. While Ramsey has also impressed in a less familiar position, the Wales international has made it known this week that he craves a return to his natural role.
“[Playing on the right] is not my preferred position,” he said, according to the London Evening Standard. “I am a central midfielder and that’s where I like to be. I like to be involved a lot more in the game. When you are out wide you don’t touch the ball for three or four minutes and I like to be at the heart of everything, trying to drive the team forward.
“But the manager’s asked me to do a job out there, and I do have the license to drift in and get involved. When we are defending, I have to stay in position but when we get the ball I can drift. I am not a winger, I can’t knock the ball beyond my man like Theo [Walcott] does. I prefer to get in the little pockets of space, get involved and play the combinations but it is important to do a job for the team.”