Tue, Dec 27, 2011 - Page 18 News List

Wenger eyes perfect festive program

FILLING IN:The Arsenal boss believes his lack of cover at leftback is worrying, but he is yet to make any inquiry about a short-term replacement for Gibbs and Sandro

AFP, LONDON

Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen, right, heads the ball under pressure from Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero in their Premier League match in Manchester, England, on Dec. 18.

Photo: Reuters

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admits that a Christmas program which features games against struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers and Fulham could define the club’s Premier League season.

Arsenal, who face Wolves today, are just two points ahead of sixth-placed Liverpool, but only one behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

“We know we have an opportunity to gain a better position on the table. It’s down to us to do our job,” Wenger said. “In the Premier League, the Christmas period is vital to get your points. We have responded well to our defeat at Man City with a win at Aston Villa, so now it’s down to us to do the job at home and get the points against Wolves on Tuesday.”

Meanwhile, Wenger believes his lack of cover at leftback is worrying — but he is yet to make any inquiry about a short-term replacement. Wenger was left without a recognized leftback after Kieran Gibbs had surgery on his groin on Thursday. Gibbs is expected to be out of action for a month and he joins fellow defender Sandro on the sidelines.

Wenger is currently making do with centerhalf Thomas Vermaelen at leftback and he admitted he may have to enter the transfer market in the beginning of next month. Wayne Bridge, who has played one match for Manchester City this season, has been mooted as a potential loan target for Arsenal.

“It can only be a short-term solution for us because we have bought Santos, we have Gibbs, we have Vermaelen, who can play there, so we do not need a long-term solution,” Wenger said. “Long term, I am sticking to Santos and Gibbs, I love both of them because they have a quality I like, which is to attack. I haven’t made any inquiry yet [for Bridge], so for the moment not him or anyone else.”

Defender Johan Djourou is still a doubt for the Wolves game, but apart from long-term absentees Gibbs, Santos and Jack Wilshere, Arsenal have no injury issues.

On Wolves, Wenger added: “They have the Mick McCarthy spirit and attitude, they never give up.”

“They play a very positive game, so we know what to expect. They fight to stay in the league and you know it is always an intense game,” he said.

Wolves midfielder Karl Henry has branded their position in the table “not acceptable” as they prepare to head to the Emirates Stadium.

McCarthy’s team begin the festive period in 17th, a single point clear of the bottom three following 10 defeats in their last 14 games, but they could slip into the relegation zone by the time they play today if results went against them yesterday.

“Have Wolves under-achieved this season? One hundred percent. I don’t think anyone is in disagreement about that,” Henry said. “We know it’s not acceptable where we are in the league. If you had asked us where we wanted to be at the start of the season, it certainly wouldn’t be in or just above the relegation zone. We expected more points than we’ve got and it makes it hard every game you go into now. Yes, we need more points.”

However, manager McCarthy insists last year’s win at Liverpool during the Christmas period proves they should not be written off against the Gunners.

“We’re always planning three or four games down the line and I went to watch them against Manchester City,” the Wolves boss said. “I don’t know if that’s given me information or made me a bit more fearful of going to Arsenal, because they were awesome against City.”

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