Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal’s growing injury list is becoming a major concern ahead of the north London derby against Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
The Gunners suffered a dreadful 5-1 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, but sit level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Arsenal have a string of first-team players – Hector Bellerin (groin), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring), Theo Walcott (calf), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (knee) and Danny Welbeck (knee) – currently out of action.
Laurent Koscielny (hip) and Mikel Arteta (foot) will undergo late fitness tests to see if they can be fit to face Spurs, leaving Wenger worried ahead of a crucial period of the season.
“I am very concerned because we are only in November and we have so many players out,” said Wenger.
“We go into the Christmas period and I am concerned because we have too many out. I give Koscielny 80 per cent chance [to play Spurs]. He will have a test Saturday morning, so will Mikel Arteta.”
Wenger feels it is still premature to properly judge whether his side can win the league, but is happy to be in a position of strength after 11 games.
He added: “It is too early to say [if Arsenal can win the title]. We want to be in the fight and I believe we can but it is too early.
“At Christmas we will see better. Now it is down to consistency and turning up for every game.
“You want to be up there at the top and we are at the moment. After the first game against West Ham [a 2-0 home defeat] it is absolutely remarkable what we have done and we want to stay there.
“I enjoy the derby because I believe you want to play important exciting games in football that have meaning and special emotions.”
Tottenham go into the derby on a fine run of form. They sit five points adrift of Arsenal, but have lost just once in the league this term – and that was the opening-day defeat to Manchester United.
Spurs have won five of their last seven league matches and head coach Mauricio Pochettino has been thrilled to see Harry Kane return to goalscoring form after the England striker netted five times in their previous three games in all competitions.
“We never had any doubts about him,” said Pochettino.
“Always the top players sometimes have times when they struggle to score. We are very pleased with him, very happy he has started to score again.
“Playing on a Thursday [a 2-1 win against Anderlecht in the Europa League] and then Sunday is not easy but we will be ready to compete and try to win the game, it is the north London derby and we know this is a very important game for us.”
Tottenham expect to have Danny Rose fit after a knock and Clinton N’Jie will undergo a late check on a hamstring problem. Nabil Bentaleb and Nacer Chadli are both out with ankle injuries, while Andros Townsend is not likely to play after a clash with the club’s fitness coach.
Key Opta stats:
– Arsenal have won 13 and lost just two of their last 18 Barclays Premier League games at the Emirates, conceding just nine goals in that run.
– Tottenham have won just one of their last 22 Premier League trips to their north London rivals (W1 D8 L13).
– Mesut Ozil has the most goal assists in Europe’s top five leagues this season (9).
– Olivier Giroud has scored in five of his last seven Premier League appearances.
– Petr Cech has the best saves-to-shots ratio of any goalkeeper in the top flight this season (83 per cent) and needs just one clean sheet to equal David James’ record of 169 in the Premier League.
– Spurs are on the longest unbeaten run in the Premier League, having not lost a game in the competition since the opening day (10 games – W5 D5 L0).