Wenger makes no keeper guarantees

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Published: Thursday 16th April 2015 by The News Editor

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has every confidence Wojciech Szczesny is up to the challenge of returning in goal for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Reading at Wembley, but will offer no guarantees of the Poland stopper as their long-term number one.

Since the turn of the year, Szczesny has seen his position at the Emirates Stadium lost to David Ospina following a some poor performances coupled with negative off-field headlines when caught smoking in the showers after the Barclays Premier League defeat at Southampton on January 1.

Szczesny has not played since the quarter-final win at Manchester United, but Wenger believes the goalkeeper will be sharp enough to come back between the posts this weekend.

However, the Arsenal manager insists just like any other position within his squad – which has won eight league matches in succession – that it is all down to form.

“I believe that before a game you prepare mentally and there is no special problem,” said Wenger.

“I replaced Wojciech because he had a bad game. I still think he is a great goalkeeper and I want him as well to have the opportunity to show that.

“On Wednesday night, I watched PSG against Barcelona and they (Barcelona) played their goalkeeper number two (Marc-Andre ter Stegen) in the Champions League game. Why? Because you need to give them as well competition.”

Wenger continued: “They know the rules. It is based on merit.

“If you have a disastrous game you don’t play in the next one, but as well the first priority is the quality of the competition.

“You are right (Ospina has done nothing wrong), but if Wojciech remained number one, Ospina would play on Saturday.

“Once you have the rule, based on the fact Wojciech had a good game against Manchester United and there is no special reason to drop him (now) for Saturday.”

Asked if Szczesny had a long-term future at Arsenal, Wenger replied: “I hope yes, but at the moment it is very difficult to answer that question. What is important is Saturday.”

Szczesny’s attitude since being dropped has impressed Wenger.

“He has trained well, and is very focused,” the Gunners boss said.

“The problem is to repeat the level of concentration. Wojciech has a good potential of focus, but take any goalkeeper in any club, you don’t have many who play every absolutely all the games in Europe. They need their moments of (a) breather where they can recharge and focus again.”

Wenger, though, warned against anyone expecting the jersey was theirs to keep.

“At the moment it can change again on the performances of Ospina and the performances of Wojciech,” he said.

“We are in a competitive world and you have to accept that nothing is definite, every day it can change.”

The Arsenal boss added: “As I told you many times it is our job to fight for your places, no matter how difficult it is.

“I accept that it is difficult. But when you choose this kind of job, you know it is down to competition.”

Wenger rejected suggestions Arsenal’s resurgence was based around the regular introduction of Ospina, rather the fact they had now a near fully-fit squad.

The Gunners head into this weekend’s Wembley showdown firm favourites to secure a return to the national stadium at the end of May and another crack at defending their FA Cup crown.

Wenger, though, insists there will no air of complacency against the Sky Bet Championship side.

“It is exactly the same (pressure as in 2014), maybe the environment is less (pressure), but yourself you have exactly the same. You want to go to the final and get there. You have to absolutely spot on with everything,” he said.

“You can always imagine the consequences of not going (through).

“You want to keep the positive vibes in the team and around the club, therefore there is only one way, and I have enough experience to know how big this game is.”

Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta is expected back in full training next week following an ankle problem after a match for the Under-21s.

Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, however, faces more recovery time from an inflamed groin.

“He is on the way, building up, and he might join in next week in full training and then we see,” said Wenger.

Asked if the midfielder was expected back before the end of the season, Wenger said: “I believe so, (but) it is in the balance.”

Published: Thursday 16th April 2015 by The News Editor

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