Arsene Wenger plans to rotate Arsenal squad for FA Cup
Arsene Wenger feels he has little option but to rotate Arsenal's battle-weary squad as the Gunners kick off their bid for FA Cup glory against Leeds on Saturday.
Arsenal completed an unbeaten Christmas schedule with last night's goalless draw against title rivals Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium, where they struck the woodwork twice in the first half and Robin van Persie was also later denied by a fine save from England number one Joe Hart.
Wenger's men are now four points adrift of leaders Manchester United, who have a match in hand, and trail City by two having played a game less.
Before thoughts of re-igniting their championship challenge at bottom club West Ham in a fortnight, there is an FA Cup third-round date against npower Championship promotion hopefuls Leeds to get through, which will be swiftly followed by the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final against Ipswich.
With goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, centre-back Thomas Vermaelen and midfielder Abou Diaby all on the road to recovery and out of an uncharacteristically sparse treatment room, Wenger does not want to take any chances by overloading the rest of his team.
There will be at least one enforced change as Bacary Sagna starts a three-match suspension after Wenger confirmed there would be no appeal against the right-back's needless red card for a clash with Pablo Zabaleta late in the City game.
Emmanuel Eboue is a ready-made replacement, while fit-again England defender Kieran Gibbs, having now recovered from his latest ankle injury problem, should come in on the left and young midfielder Aaron Ramsey could also feature after his return from a productive loan spell at Nottingham Forest.
"We will rotate. There are going to be changes, many changes," Wenger confirmed to Arsenal TV Online.
"It will be good to have Kieran back and Eboue will play as Sagna is suspended.
"I have somewhere in my mind that I will make changes, but I don't know who will play.
"From last night, we have no serious injuries.
"I believe that [Samir] Nasri and [Robin] van Persie could be short for Saturday. They have kicks - van Persie on the hip and Nasri on the ankle. It is a question of days.
"They have a chance to recover in time, but I will certainly rest van Persie and maybe Nasri."
Wenger insisted there was no point trying to get Sagna's sanction overturned.
"I have seen it again and there is no way we can appeal. For me it is a red card and we have to accept it," the Arsenal manager said.
"Bacary lost his temper and had too strong a reaction. He acknowledges that he should have kept control. We will not appeal."
Although Wenger is set to shuffle his pack, the Arsenal boss is all too aware of the challenge ahead if they are to avoid suffering a shock in front of the live television cameras on Saturday lunchtime.
"It will be another big game - you know the third round of the FA Cup is always very tricky," said Wenger, whose team's last trophy came with victory in the 2005 final.
"We need to swallow our frustration from the Man City match and quickly focus again for Saturday.
"We have players who are coming back, players who have not played and we will rotate - that is vital."
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