ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger admits he is cursing the loss of several key players as he prepares to launch yet another tilt at European success.
Midfielder Abou Diaby, inset, and defender Thomas Vermaelen are the latest names on a Gunners’ injury list that is already mounting just a few weeks into the season.
Forwards Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott are also recent casualties, while Nicklas Bendtner and Aaron Ramsey are longer-term absentees.
“Diaby is out with an ankle problem following the tackle from [Bolton’s Paul] Robinson and I do not know for how long,” said Wenger, has taken Arsenal beyond the group stage in each of the last 10 years. “He will not play [against Braga tonight] and certainly not at the weekend [at Sunderland]. Thomas Vermaelen is out as well with an achilles problem coming back from Belgium, so we do not have him either.
“We have Walcott, Van Persie, Bendtner and Ramsey already out. Now Vermaelen and Diaby, so that is quite a good team out.”
This evening’s visitors to the Emirates Stadium, Braga, may be newcomers to the Champions League but Wenger is mindful of underestimating a team who have already outmuscled more prestigious names on their route.
“What impresses me is that they finished in front of Porto,” said Wenger of last year’s Portuguese runners-up. “Also in the qualifying round they knocked Sevilla out, that helps us to be on our toes. They have a strong Brazilian influence in their team, are physically strong and are well organised.”