Arsenal have received a timely boost ahead of Monday night’s crucial Premier League match against Reading, with Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud both available after missing the Capital One Cup humiliation against Bradford City.
Although Arsenal have struggled for goals this season, Walcott and Giroud have been the club’s two most prolific players and are both expected to start at the Madejski Stadium after recovering from respective shoulder and back injuries.
The availability of Walcott had been in particular doubt amid increasing uncertainty about his future after the ongoing failure to extend a contract which expires at the end of the season.
After the fallout from losing to Bradford, Arsène Wenger has rarely been in more acute need of a convincing away performance. Victory on Monday night would take Arsenal back to within two points of Tottenham in fourth, with Wenger generally happy with the club’s performances this season away from the Emirates Stadium.
“Our results away are in the same bracket as the two top teams,” said Wenger. “Where we have lost the points is we made too many draws at home.”
Wenger also received some timely support yesterday from several Arsenal ‘grandees’, although George Graham did also question the quality of recent signings and insist that the team have been in decline. “Let’s give Arsene the credit,” said Graham. “He brought in players for average prices, like Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Marc Overmars, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit.
“He turned them into fantastic world-class players. He has got to get his magic hat on again and go out and see if he can get players of that quality at good prices.
“There is a lot of hysterical criticism about Wenger now. But his first period at the club, for seven years, was probably the most attractive and attacking football I’ve ever seen in English football.
“He set the standard and unfortunately in the last few seasons the standard is just slowly slipping away. He enjoys Arsenal, the power and influence he has got throughout the club. I think Arsene will still be there for a few years yet. I just hope they bring in a better quality of player.”
Bob Wilson, who worked under Wenger as the club’s goalkeeping coach, also rejected the claim by Stewart Robson, the former Arsenal midfielder, that the Frenchman was “a dictator in many ways” for not delegating more readily. “To say Wenger appoints ’yes men’ is an insult to all the people who have worked under him - myself included - I always stood up to Arsene,” he said.
Jeremy Wilson, Telegraph.co.uk