The Gunners face their hardest test yet in the Champions League as they are due to host German side Schalke at the Emirates stadium on Wednesday night, and they will do so without ‘contract rebel’ Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain due to their respective injuries but Laurent Koscielny returns to the squad.
The Bundesliga side managed to beat Dortmund at the weekend and will be a big threat with the likes of Huntelaar and Afellay keen wreck havoc on the sometimes sketchy Arsenal defence.
Arsene Wenger revealed the following team news ahead of their third Champions League tie:
[on the latest updates] We lost Oxlade-Chamberlain, he will not be back. The only player who will be back in the squad, recovering, is Koscielny.
[on Walcott’s contract talks] They are going on but there is no news about that. The good news is that Theo had his first run today and is looking quite well so he should be back shortly.
[on reports of Juventus’ interest in Walcott] My determination has always been the same, to extend his contract. [Whether] other clubs are interested or not, the determination is the same.
Wenger failed to mention anything about Kieran Gibbs so it is still likely he will miss out on the Schalke clash but hopefully he will be fit to face QPR on the weekend. Walcott was not expected to be part of the plans for the midweek fixture either, so the main blow is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who would have almost definitely started ahead of the woeful Gervinho.
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Arsenal have an impressive record in Europe as they have not lost a home fixture against non-English opposition in 45 matches (the last loss came against Inter in 2003) and they are still hot favourites to pip Schalke despite their poor showing on the weekend.
And as for Walcott’s contractual situation – sign a new deal already! Arsenal will be offering the wages he deserves which is something high-ish but not in the £100,000 a week bracket as he is not consistent enough to be a top earner at the Emirates..yet. He will get more opportunities up front in the distant future once he can prove he is capable of playing as a frontman, but for now he must show his commitment to Arsenal by signing a new deal and the rest will follow.
Be sure to check out our betting preview to follow today..