Walcott could make Anfield return


Published: Thursday 18th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Arsenal forward Theo Walcott could make a long-awaited return to action at Liverpool on Sunday.

Manager Arsene Wenger revealed the 25-year-old, who has made just two appearances this season following recovery from a long-term knee injury, is set to resume full training after a groin problem suffered while on international duty with England.

While Wenger will take no chances on Walcott’s rehabilitation, the imminent availability of the jet-heeled forward will come as a welcome boost ahead of the hectic Christmas schedule, which could also see both defender Nacho Monreal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shake off their fitness problems.

“There is a slight chance of (Nacho) Monreal being available and a very slight chance for Walcott. We hope that Oxlade-Chamberlain will be fit. We will see that on Saturday,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.

“He (Walcott) is back in training today (Thursday), but only today. I might take him (to Liverpool), I don’t know yet until he is back to full training. Let’s see.”

Oxlade-Chamberlain limped out of the closing stages of Arsenal’s 4-1 Barclays Premier League win over Newcastle last weekend with a groin problem which the club hope will prove to be minor.

“That’s what we’ll see on Saturday after a test. He is not in training at the moment,” Wenger said.

Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil is another who is stepping up his rehabilitation, having been out since the defeat at Chelsea on October 5 because of a knee problem.

Wenger confirmed both goalkeeper David Ospina and midfielder Tomas Rosicky are also close to being available again following their respective thigh problems.

However, captain Mikel Arteta (calf), midfielder Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and centre-back Laurent Koscielny (calf) are still out, but “progressing as planned”, according to the Gunners boss.

Arsenal will be looking to remain within striking distance of the top four with a positive result at Anfield to continue their upturn in form, which has seen five wins from six across all competitions.

The knock-out stages of the Champions League await Arsenal, who have been paired with Monaco, the French club where Wenger made his name as a young coach.

Wenger won the Ligue 1 title in 1988 and the French Cup in 1991, as well as reaching the European Cup Winners’ Cup final and then the semi-finals of the Champions League in 1994, and went on to have a spell managing in Japan before being a surprise choice for the Arsenal job in October 1996.

He has never since faced Monaco in a competitive fixture, and is looking forward to his return to the Stade Louis II stadium for the second leg of the tie in March next year.

“We had very few chances to get Monaco and I think it’s a strange coincidence in life because I have spent 25 years of my life at Monaco and Arsenal together, so it’s a little bit like my life meets my life,” the 65-year-old said.

“It is good as well because I go back to basically where I started.

“I have never [been back], because I was always very busy and since I have been here in England we have played every three days basically throughout the whole season. I have been back to the city a few times but never to the stadium.”

Monaco were considered one of the weaker seeds, having come through Group C ahead of Bayer Leverkusen but scored just four goals – two of those coming in the final tie with Zenit St Petersburg.

“Overall it is an opportunity for us to get through to the quarter-final,” said Wenger, whose side were knocked out of Europe by Bayern Munich in the past two seasons.

“Having said that, Monaco is a tough draw because they have come top out of a very tough group and that means it is a signal for us to be ready to meet a tough team who defend very well and are very quick on counter-attacks. We need a good defensive performance against them.”

Published: Thursday 18th December 2014 by The News Editor

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