ARSENAL (2) vs HUDDERSFIELD (1)
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger fears mounting injuries and suspensions could sabotage his team’s ability to challenge on all four fronts after losing three men in an unconvincing late FA Cup fourth round victory.
The 10-man Gunners needed another late cameo from captain Cesc Fabregas, who climbed off the bench to help win and then convert an 86th-minute penalty, to finally see off their League One opponents.
But relief for Wenger was short-lived, as he contemplated a one-match ban for the red carded Sebastien Sqiuallaci and injuries to midfielders Samir Nasri and Denilson which will rule them out of a hectic schedule that continues tomorrow with the visit of Everton.
“We’re at the stage of the season where we play so many games so to lose bodies is very difficult for us,” said Wenger. “We looked a little but tired today but hopefully before Tuesday we can recover. The good thing is when you win you recover quicker. I have a few players who did not play today and will be fresh, but of course we have just 48 hours.”
Nasri’s hamstring injury makes him a major doubt for the Champions League last 16 clash with Barcelona on 16 February, and Wenger conceded the in-form playmaker’s knock was “a big blow”. Yet despite the fresh fitness concerns, and the continued absence of centre-back Thomas Vermaelen, Wenger insists he does not expect to make any signings before tonight’s transfer deadline.
“No, I leave these headlines to all the other clubs,” he said, before adding: “I can’t tell you definitely, because if a good player knocks on my door tomorrow and says I want to play for you then I will sign him.”
Wenger now intends to rotate his team, which he did yesterday to mixed effect. Nicklas Bendtner revelled in another start on the right wing, driving the opening goal via a deflection from Peter Clarke on 22 minutes.
But the sending off of last man Squillaci for a bodycheck on the marauding Jack Hunt handed Huddersfield the momentum, and they duly levelled on 66 minutes when Alan Lee climbed above Abou Diaby to power a header past the recalled Manuel Almunia.
Substitute Fabregas restored some vim to Arsenal’s attack and made the winner when he won the ball 25 yards out and slipped a pass to Bendtner, who was felled, allowing the Spaniard to net from the spot for his ninth of the season.