Arsène Wenger admits that that hectic festive period makes it difficult to balance the demands on his squad with the desire to maintain a consistent lineup. Arsenal host Queens Park Rangers on Friday before visiting West Ham just two days later and then, on New Year’s Day, taking on Southampton at St Mary’s. Arsenal’s squad remains stretched by what has a been a consistent run of injuries, which means Wenger, in particular, faces some tough choices in the coming days.
“The difficulty is finding the right balance between rotation and the balance of the side without destabilizing it,” he told Arsenal’s official website. “Therefore you sometimes have to limit the numbers of rotation,” he said. “Secondly, it’s easier to rotate in the offensive positions than in the defensive positions, where the understanding of each other is very important. You try to combine and you also have to look at the individual fatigue factor.”
Arsenal’s options are particularly limited in midfield, where Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere remain on the sidelines. The situation is far from ideal at the back, either. Laurent Koscielny will again be absent against QPR, although could return either on Sunday or New Year’s Day, meaning Mathieu Debuchy is expected to continue to fill in alongside Per Mertesacker in the center of defense. The France international got himself on the score sheet in Arsenal’s last outing, which ended in disappointment courtesy of a late equalizer for Liverpool in a 2-2 draw at Anfield. Still, given the fact that they conceded a massive 27 shots at their goal in that encounter, a point was far from a disastrous result.
It leaves Arsenal in sixth place in the Premier League, with 27 points from 17 games, two points adrift of West Ham in the final Champions League place. They will likely feel confident of at least maintaining that gap on Boxing Day when they take on a QPR side whose away record in the league this season reads: played eight, lost eight. Thankfully for last year’s Championship playoff winners, they have won their last three encounters at Loftus Road to keep them two points clear of the relegation zone. Key to that run has been the goals of striker Charlie Austin, who has found the net 11 times in 15 appearances this season. Manager Harry Redknapp has stated that he sees plenty of positives and insists that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with his team’s approach away from home.
“People are making a big thing of it, but at the end of the day we are sitting there with 17 points and I would have taken that at the start of the season, all day long,” he said, reports QPR’s official website. “To be where we are at this particular time, I am delighted. We’ve played every system away from home, but it’s not systems that win games, it’s players. We’ve had hard away games, very difficult away games.”
Kickoff time: 12.30 p.m. EST
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra