Arsene Wenger has challenged his fringe players to take their chance in the spotlight after an injury crisis left the Arsenal manager short of options heading into Saturday’s visit to Swansea City. Both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott suffered muscular injuries in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, and now face at least three weeks on the sidelines.
With Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Mikel Arteta already ruled out, it means Arsenal are short of options for a crucial period which sees also them also take on Bayern Munich and Tottenham over the next 10 days. But Wenger believes he has the players to cope.
“It is always disappointing to lose players but we are equipped first of all with the quality of our squad and we are equipped mentally as well,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “We prepare ourselves to deal with anything.
“It’s a challenge for me and for the players who come in to show their quality. At the end you can find yourself with a bigger squad -- that is what happened with [Francis] Coquelin and [Hector] Bellerin last season.”
The absences of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott provide a particular problem for Arsenal on the right side of midfield. More than four years after joining the club, it could mean a first Premier League start for Joel Campbell. The Costa Rica international was part of the lineup that lost 3-0 to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, but Wenger insists he has full confidence in the 23-year-old to make a positive contribution in the coming weeks.
“My short-term option is Campbell or get one more defensive midfielder in like [Mathieu] Flamini and put [Santi] Cazorla on the flank,” he explained. “I haven’t decided yet. We will find solutions and I have to find the right one.
“I have been very impressed by [Campbell], his attitude is outstanding and his daily dedication in training and his desire to improve is absolutely fantastic. I think he can be a big help for us, and he can play center forward as well don’t forget that. In the coming two to three months he can be a very important player for us.”
On Saturday Arsenal will be taking on the only team that did the double over them in last season’s Premier League. The two wins for Swansea continued an impressive record for the Welsh side since gaining promotion to the Premier League four years ago, winning four of their eight previous meetings with Arsenal.
And Swansea come into their latest contest on the back of securing a welcome win over struggling Aston Villa last week. It was result that ended a run of five Premier League matches without a win, which had even led to the future of manager Garry Monk being called into question. Having got a win, Monk is optimistic of his side’s chances against an Arsenal side that only sit behind Premier League leaders Manchester City on goal difference.
“We've had some good games since coming up into the league we’ve managed to get some good results against them home and away.,” he said.
"We know that when we are at our best we can give anyone in the league a good game. And we'll need to be at our best on the weekend with the form that they’re in. But we’re always confident against the best sides at home, if we put our best football on the pitch we’ll be in with a chance of getting a good result.”
D: Naughton, Fernández, Williams, Taylor
M: Ki, Shelvey
Ayew, Sigurdsson, Montero
D: Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal
M: Coquelin, Cazorla
Campbell, Özil, Sánchez
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. EDT
TV channel: USA
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra