herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Wenger won't take a 'crazy gamble' on Nasri

ARSENE Wenger will assess Samir Nasri's performance in training before deciding whether to play him in tomorrow's Champions League round of 16, first-leg match against Barcelona.

Nasri has not played since suffering a hamstring injury in Arsenal's FA Cup fourth-round win over Huddersfield Town more than two weeks ago, but Wenger believes he is close to full fitness after the France midfielder came through a session yesterday unscathed.

However, the Arsenal manager added that he would not take a risk with a player who has been the team's most consistent performer this season, and Nasri may have to settle for a place on the bench, with Andrey Arshavin taking his place on the left of midfield.

"He has worked very hard in the last week -- physically he is ready," Wenger said.

"It is just if there is a risk of a setback or not. I will not take a crazy gamble with him."



LESSONS

Arsenal are hoping to gain revenge for last season's 6-3 aggregate defeat by Barcelona at the quarter-final stage of the competition, in two matches that Theo Walcott admitted yesterday could not have gone worse for the North London club.

The England forward is adamant his team-mates have learned lessons from those chastening experiences, however, and have gained confidence from beating Chelsea earlier this season.

"These are the games you want to play in and hopefully the result can be different from last year," Walcott said. "I believe we can do much better than last season, although we can't do worse to be honest.

"It's going to be an open game, but these days when we lose the ball we try to get it back quicker. That's what we did against Chelsea and Manchester City and hopefully we can take that into the Barcelona game because it's a massive one this season, the biggest one I'm going to play in."

Walcott is confident that Robin van Persie's availability could also make a difference, as last season the striker's absence because of an ankle injury suffered playing for Holland left Arsenal short of a cutting edge up front.

"It's great to see Robin back fit and he's a dream to play with," Walcott said.

"He's a great player and I link up well with him. He's banging in the goals now and making up for the time he missed."

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