Arsenal close to winning silverware, insists Thierry Henry
THIERRY Henry has shrugged off Arsenal's 4-0 drubbing at the hands of AC Milan in Europe and insists Arsene Wenger's men are "not far from winning something".
Arsenal's comprehensive Champions League defeat in Milan has led many former players to call for a clear-out at the Emirates.
Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit has warned the club they need to completely overhaul the squad if they are to start challenging for trophies again.
However, Henry says there is no reason to panic just yet and believes the Gunners can still lift a trophy this season, with the first step being to win their FA Cup last 16 clash at Sunderland on Saturday.
"Why not?" Henry told Arsenal Player. "This team is not far from winning something, we all know it.
"If you can win at Sunderland, you don't know how the draw is going to be. You might play at home next, then the semi-finals are around the corner.
"You never know if Jack is going to come back and Abou Diaby is not far from coming back. You don't know what could happen. If you are still in the competition then those players coming back will only help you find top form.
"Hopefully the team can stay in the competition, even though it will be tough at Sunderland. Jack, Abou, you want them around.
"Jack is going to be, hopefully for the club, a talisman in years to come. He grew up an Arsenal fan so it is important to have a guy like that in the dressing room. We will see."
With Arsenal currently fourth place in the Premier League, Henry knows the team are masters of their own destiny.
"The league is going to be very difficult but the top four is in our hands," he said. "We have the squad, there is a long way to go.
"We have to play Chelsea at home, Tottenham at home, Newcastle at home, Man City at home - it is clearly in your hands. Whereas Liverpool, for example, have some tricky games away. It's not impossible.
"It's sometimes down to having momentum. Hopefully we can build on what we did at Sunderland last weekend from being 1-0 down. With 15 minutes to go it didn't look like coming back.
"OK, you can say we have just lost 4-0 in Milan but you have to believe. If you don't believe then you might as well go home. You have got to believe and always think you can turn things around. The belief is all you need to have."
Meanwhile, Arsenal's torrid week continued this afternoon when Arsene Wenger revealed that Per Mertesacker has been ruled out "long term".
Adding to Wenger's defensive problems is that Laurent Koscielny is also missing for tomorrow's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Sunderland because of a knee problem.
But while Koscielny should recover in a week from the injury sustained during Wednesday night's painful 4-0 drubbing by AC Milan, Mertesacker may have played his last game this season.
The German international suffered ankle ligament damage during Saturday's Barclays Premier League victory against Sunderland that requited ankle surgery.
"Unfortunately he has had surgery and we have lost him for a while," Wenger told the club's official website, www.arsenal.com.
"How long I don't know. He had reconstruction of his ligaments, so it will be long term."
Koscielny limped off shortly before half time at the San Siro, but the prognosis on his injury is far more encouraging.
"He had a scan yesterday and the news is quite good," said Wenger.
"He will be out for hopefully around a week. He will miss the Sunderland game, but he should be back for next week."
Wenger is facing a headache at centre-back with Mertesacker and Koscielny unavailable for the trip to the Stadium of Light.
Thomas Vermaelen's lack of match sharpness was exposed during Arsenal's heaviest European defeat, while Johan Djourou was far from impressive.
Sebastien Squillaci has been frozen out of the first team picture, but Alex Song can play centre-back if required.
Gervinho has finished international duty at the African Nations Cup and is included in the squad and defender Carl Jenkinson will soon return to training following his back problem.
Wenger also revealed that Kieran Gibbs suffered no setback at the San Siro after being out since October with a groin problem.
"Kieran played his first game in four months in Milan so of course it was a shock to go back to that level. But physically he's all right," said Wenger.
"Carl's back in full training on Monday. That's good news for us."
Djourou has urged Arsenal to atone for last season's Carling Cup final loss to Birmingham by winning the last piece of silverware available to them this season.
"This is a big opportunity for us. The FA Cup is one of the main targets and we have to go for it," he told Arsenal Player.
"Last season's League Cup final defeat is very motivating because we were very disappointed about what happened last time at Wembley and we want to put that right.
"I think it is something still in our heads, and it is difficult to swallow. We know if we can get to the final we can lift the trophy."