Saturday 16 December 2017

Gibbs gives Gunners' rearguard major boost

Jamie Holland

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes the Gunners' defensive injury crisis may be easing after full-back Kieran Gibbs returned to full training, although not in time for tonight's Premier League trip to Bolton.

Wenger reported no fresh fitness worries following Sunday's thrilling 3-2 FA Cup fourth-round win over Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium.

Right-back Bacary Sagna came on for the closing stages for a first appearance since breaking his ankle against Tottenham in October, and the imminent return of England international left-back Gibbs after three months out following groin surgery will be another timely boost, with Carl Jenkinson and Andre Santos both still on the recovery trail.

Switzerland international Johan Djourou has also shrugged off a calf problem picked up in the defeat against Manchester United, so will bolster a defence which is slowly starting to have balance again following a period where four centre-halves were deployed across the backline.

"He had a normal training session yesterday," Wenger said. "Kieran is still short to play now, but it is good news to have him back.

"I think one or two more weeks' practice will get him back to being available again, that is very positive."

Wenger, however, urged caution with expecting too much too soon from France international Sagna.

He said: "Sagna is a bit early still (to say for Bolton), but you never know.

"I might consider it, because I have to check all the recoveries of the players who played on Sunday."

Wenger admits his players will have to dig deep to find the energy to go again at Bolton having producing a rousing second-half performance against Villa to book their place in the last 16.

"It was a very demanding game physically," he said. "Now it is important that we recover and prepare well for tomorrow night."

Irish Independent

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