Arsenal: French striker linked again; Ramsey hamstring troubles; Gunners 'weaker' than Chelsea
Arsene Wenger celebrates the 20th anniversary of his appointment as Arsenal manager this week, and will be hoping for a happier occasion against Chelsea than when he travelled to Stamford Bridge for his 1,000th game in 2014. The Blues ran riot in a 6-0 win that day, but Saturday’s clash at the Emirates is a good chance for Arsenal to build on four consecutive wins domestically. Chelsea have a stranglehold over the Gunners, and Wenger’s men haven’t beaten them at home since December 2010. Team news is likely to filter through tomorrow when Wenger holds his usual pre-match press conference ahead of the standout game of the weekend.
Nevertheless, even with such a fixture on the horizon in late September there is still chatter about the transfer window. According to the Daily Star, Wenger is interested in Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema having failed to land him in the summer of 2015. Their report says:
“News outlet Merca Football claim Wenger is still keen on the target man.
“However, it’s suggested any deal could be a tough ask after FIFA upheld Real’s transfer embargo.
“The La Liga giants are banned from signing players in January or next summer.”
As was intimated by BBC Sport’s David Ornstein over the summer, Arsenal have funds set aside to spend on a marquee forward should Wenger identify one. The Gunners may have brought in Lucas Perez, but have the funds to go big should the Frenchman decide to pull the trigger. Benzema is a fine player and one that Wenger has coveted in the past, but it is unlikely that he will go back for a second time. The Real forward is now 28, and Wenger baulked at spending big on Gonzalo Higuaín this summer. The likes of Antoine Griezmann and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang are likely to be higher on his list of targets, despite the respective difficulty of landing them.
Elsewhere, The Sun are reporting that Arsenal are concerned by the length of time it has taken Aaron Ramsey to recover from a hamstring injury. The Welshman went off injured during the Gunner’s opening league game against Liverpool and has not featured since. They say:
“Ramsey returned to light training before the last international break, but has not recovered as quickly as was expected.
“Boss Arsene Wenger is still unsure when the Welsh star will return and fears rushing him back too soon after all his hamstring problems.”
Arsenal and injury problems is a familiar trope and one that is over exaggerated slightly. That said, it does seem as if Wenger is being ultra-disciplined in not rushing players back. He was steadfast in his refusal to play Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud or Laurent Koscielny against Liverpool, handing them extended breaks following the European Championship. Granit Xhaka has been eased in slowly. Alexis Sanchez was left on the bench against Southampton after international exertions, which is highly unusual. Perhaps this is a change of policy aimed at arresting the number of injuries Arsenal tend to get.
Finally, former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has tipped Saturday’s clash against Chelsea to be a draw, but claims that Antonio Conte’s men are physically and mentally stronger than Arsenal. Redknapp said:
“I still feel Chelsea are stronger mentally and physically than Arsenal. John Terry will be a big loss if he doesn’t make it but Chelsea are a more powerful unit.
“Having said that, they had more power last Friday but Liverpool were quicker and sharper — Arsenal have got to do the same and play their quick, slick ‘pass and move’ game well. Look at the way they match up at set-plays. With Mertesacker out, Arsenal don’t have a lot of height in their team and Arsene might throw Olivier Giroud in with that physical mismatch in mind as well as the attacking qualities he can bring.”
Arsenal haven’t scored a league goal against Chelsea in the last three seasons, and it is vital they find a way of disturbing the Blues’ experienced backline. Contrary to Redknapp’s view, Alexis Sanchez is expected to continue as a ‘false nine’ with Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott in close attendance. Terry and Gary Cahill have handled Giroud quite comfortably in the past; he is the type of striker they have faced dozens of times in their career. They are more susceptible to sharp movement and pace in behind, and Arsenal might have more joy going with this formula.
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