Arsenal v West Brom: Arsene Wenger confirms Jack Wilshere is nearing a return to fitness but will miss West Brom match along with Kieran Gibbs
Wilshere picked up a foot injury in England's win over Denmark in March prompting fears he could miss the World Cup
Arsene Wenger has confirmed that England midfielder Jack Wilshere is nearing a return from the ankle injury that has put his World Cup participation in doubt, although he will definitely miss Arsenal’s clash with relegation-battlers West Brom on Sunday.
Arsenal head into the match at the Emirates in the knowledge that victory will seal a 17th-straight top-four finish – Manchester City could secure that status for them on Saturday if they beat Everton – but they will be without the services of both Wilshere and left-back Kieran Gibbs, while Bacary Sagna is also an injury doubt.
Wilshere aggravated a foot injury in the 1-0 victory for England against Denmark on 5 March, and initial fears sparked unrest that he could be a doubt for the Brazil tournament in the summer. However, Wenger has provided England manager Roy Hodgson with some good news in that the midfielder is nearing a return ahead of the end of the season.
Speaking at a pre-match press conference, Wenger said: “It will be the same squad on Sunday [as last week’s]. Kieran Gibbs is very close now and Jack Wilshere is not far away.
“Sagna is a doubt for Sunday.”
The French right-back is out of contract in the summer and appears to be closing on a move away from the club, with reports this morning suggesting he could begin talks over a move to Premier League rivals Manchester City following the FA Cup final on 17 May.
“We want the players to stay here because this club has big ambitions for the future,” Wenger added when quizzed on whether Sagna would be leaving the club he joined in 2007.
Read more: Arsenal could secure top-four without kicking a ball
Mertesacker admits Arsenal could not afford defeat in 'big games
Having challenged at the top throughout the early stages of the season, Arsenal’s title challenge fell apart during a run of tough fixtures in February and March, but Wenger feels that while they have performed terribly against their top-four rivals, the performances against the rest of the league have been pleasing.
He added: “Against the teams who did not fight for the Premier League title we've done our job.
“We had too many injuries in March and February and we always had to play the same players. We want to finish as close as possible to the top and win our remaining games.
“One of the ingredients we've had this season was to respond when everyone was writing us off. We missed some vital games this season but we have been remarkably consistent.”
Addressing Sunday’s opponents, Wenger admitted that the Baggies’ 36 points should be enough to keep them safe this season, but stressed that the Gunners will need to ensure they deal with the task at hand to emerge victorious and secure fourth place.
“36 points should keep you safe this season,” Wenger claimed, “but every team can lose everywhere this year.”
Wenger also spoke on his desire to see Uefa impose the correct punishments on club’s that break the Financial Fair Play regulations. Both City and French league champions Paris St-Germain are among just under 20 clubs who have fallen foul of the rules, although a heavy fine and a possible squad size restriction is more likely to be imposed rather than exclusion from the Champions League.
Clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool have played up their accordance to the financial regulations, and Wenger has reiterated his stance that any allowance against sides that break the rules would be unfair on the teams that have stuck to them.
“You want to Uefa financial fair play rules to be respected and if it's not then we will feel let down,” Wenger said.
The Gunners will hope that City can help them to Champions League football next season with a win at Goodison Park, which could allow Wenger to turn his attentions to the FA Cup final later this month, which represents the chance to end their nine-year trophyless streak that has haunted the club in recent years.
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