REUTERS – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is “very concerned” with a mounting injury list and confirmed that Hector Bellerin will miss Sunday’s North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur, while Laurent Koscielny faces a late fitness test.
Arsenal have a number of first-team players out injured, including right-back Bellerin and central defender Koscielny, whose absence was felt in the 5-1 midweek defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
“We might have Laurent Koscielny back but Hector Bellerin won’t be available,” Wenger said at his pre-match news conference on Friday.
“I’m very concerned. Because we are only in November and we have so many players out. We go into the Christmas period and I am concerned because we have too many players out.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring), Theo Walcott (calf), and Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) are out until after the international break, while Jack Wilshere (ankle) is expected to return in mid-December.
Long-term absentees Tomas Rosicky (knee) and Danny Welbeck (knee) are scheduled to return in January
The Gunners go into the derby hoping to recover from their midweek mauling in Munich, which has left their hopes of progressing to the Champions League knockout stages hanging by a thread.
Wenger is not ready to give up hope of emerging from Group F and urged his team to reproduce their best form against Tottenham.
“I want to stay in the Champions League and will do absolutely everything to stay in it,” Wenger said.
“From one competition to the other, I believe in the Premier League we have a strong confidence and we want to reproduce it on Sunday against Tottenham.
“They have always in my memory had strong teams. It will be a tough opponent just like every year.”
Arsenal are second in the table on 25 points after 11 games, below leaders Manchester City on goal difference, and Wenger praised his team’s early season league form.
“It’s remarkable what my players have done. Now we want to take advantage and continue,” the Frenchman added.
“It is too early (to say if Arsenal can win the league). We want to be in the fight and will do absolutely everything to do it. I think we have a chance, but it’s down to consistency.”
The manager also gave keeper Petr Cech a vote of confidence despite conceding five goals against Bayern.
“He is gifted, super-talented and one of the greatest goalkeepers ever seen in this country,” Wenger said.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by John O’Brien)