Thursday 22 February 2018

Wenger to unleash his big guns in glory hunt

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger

Jeremy Wilson

Arsene Wenger will take the unusual step of fielding virtually a full-strength team at Bradford in the League Cup tonight as Arsenal try to take a major step towards ending their eight-year trophy drought.

In previous years, Arsenal have generally treated the quarter-final stage of the League Cup as an opportunity to rest key players and give younger members of the squad valuable first-team experience.

Wenger, though, is confident that his best players can perform tonight against League Two Bradford and still be sufficiently recovered for the next Premier League fixture, against Reading on Monday.

Olivier Giroud, who has a back injury, is the only player being ruled out from the squad that beat West Brom on Saturday.

Although Wenger's decision has been influenced by the five clear days between tonight's match and the Reading fixture, he is also well aware of the opportunity that exists to win a first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup. Chelsea, Swansea, Norwich and Aston Villa are the only other remaining Premier League clubs in the cup.

"We want to take our chance and go through to the semi-final," said Wenger. "We'll use an experienced side because we have time to recover before Monday's match at Reading."

Arsenal have qualified for the quarter-final for nine consecutive years, with the team even recovering from a 4-0 deficit against Reading in this year's last 16 before prevailing 7-5.

"Hopefully, everybody believes now that we are serious about the competition," said Wenger, who also confirmed that talks had started over prospective new January signings.

The priority will be in attack, with Thierry Henry close to returning on loan and bids expected for Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

Wenger will also not take any internal disciplinary action against Santi Cazorla for his dive in Saturday's 2-0 win against West Brom but has reminded his Spanish playmaker of the expectations both of Arsenal and fans in England.

The FA cannot currently take retrospective disciplinary action for diving, but support is growing for the formation of a new body that could retrospectively deal with incidents where obvious injustices have taken place.

Bradford v Arsenal,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 7.45

Irish Independent

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