Arsenal's nightmare week has ended with a significant injury blow to Bacary Sagna, who will miss the Premier League match against Aston Villa tomorrow amid increasing concern over his long-term fitness.
Sagna suffered two broken legs during the 2011-12 season and has played in considerable pain since returning to action in October. He is definitely out of tomorrow's Villa match, when Arsenal will be trying to avert a third straight home defeat in eight days, and is also a doubt for the fixture against Tottenham at White Hart Lane a week on Sunday.
Sagna is out of contract with Arsenal at the end of next season and he has so far turned down the offer of an extended one-year deal. Arsenal regard that as fair for a player who is now over 30, although Wenger believes Sagna could play beyond the age of 35.
Carl Jenkinson will start at right-back tomorrow and Wenger has stressed Sagna's recent struggle for form should be understood in the context of his injury. "I am convinced that he will play at centre-back more often at some stage – although not yet, because he is only just 30 and certainly has three or four years left at right-back," said Wenger (below). "He has criticised his own form recently but the things you never question from Bac are his commitment, his mental attitude, his desire to win and his intelligence.
"If he's not at the level we know he can achieve then we are tolerant because we know it's not down to a lack of commitment – it's just because he has come back from injury."
Sagna's absence tomorrow is badly timed, with Wenger facing more scrutiny and pressure from his own fans than at any point during more than 16 years as manager. The team were booed off after defeats against Blackburn last Saturday and Bayern Munich on Tuesday night.
Wenger met club directors at a board meeting yesterday afternoon, with Arsenal's poor recent form among the issues that were discussed.
Wenger retains the full support of the board and he will be encouraged to use an available transfer fund of around £70m this summer.
It is the biggest budget Wenger has had since his arrival, largely due to new commercial deal. A £150m shirt-sponsorship deal has been agreed with Emirates and the club are in talks with Nike about extending the kit deal.
It is thought a new kit deal will be worth around £100m over five years. Nike have a period of exclusivity in the negotiations but Arsenal can also wait and speak to other companies, such as Adidas. (© Daily Telegraph, London)