Saturday 16 December 2017

Double boost for Arsenal

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny Picture: PA
Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny Picture: PA

James Ducker

Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny and midfielder Aaron Ramsey are hopeful of delivering Arsene Wenger with a double boost after resuming full first-team training ahead of their pivotal Premier League match at Liverpool on Saturday.

A run of three defeats in four matches before the FA Cup win against Sutton United has left Arsenal's hopes of challenging for either the Premier League or Champions League hanging by a thread and, consequently, placed Arsene Wenger's future in doubt.

They will also be displaced in the top four by Liverpool should they lose at Anfield ahead of their Champions League second leg against Bayern Munich next Tuesday, although victory would put them level with second-placed Tottenham.

Koscielny's back injury in Munich was the prelude to an extraordinary second-half collapse and, after missing the Sutton FA Cup tie, the France defender should be available against Liverpool.

There is more doubt over Ramsey, who has not played since the end of January following a calf injury but he has now also resumed training. Ramsey's midfield energy was particularly missed against both Chelsea and Bayern, when the Arsenal team struggled physically, although his best position in the usual 4-2-3-1 formation remains unclear.

There is also pressure on the place of Mesut Ozil, whose occupancy of the No 10 role in matches when Arsenal are struggling out of possession has raised questions. Former Germany striker Oliver Bierhoff has defended Ozil, saying that he lacked support against Bayern from his team-mates.

Wenger has yet to decide whether to extend his own contract beyond the end of this season but the expectation is that he will leave unless Arsenal do finish especially strongly. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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