Wenger to mull defensive woes over Christmas


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The Independent Football

Spare a thought for Arsène Wenger tomorrow.

While the rest of the country is gorging on turkey and mince pies, the Arsenal manager will spend his Christmas Day pondering his defensive crisis and whether it is worth bringing in Thierry Henry on loan.

Wenger will have a rare day off on Christmas Day thanks to the London Underground strike forcing the Gunners to move their match against Wolves from Boxing Day to the 27th.

But he admits he has "no special plans" for Christmas Day and, perhaps unsurprisingly, "football will play a part".

And the fact he has no recognised left-backs following Kieran Gibbs' groin surgery – and the question of whether leading scorer Robin van Persie can handle the weight of expectation when his other forwards are away on African Cup of Nations duty – will be occupying his mind rather than anything festive.

Gibbs, 22, is expected to be out for at least a month following his latest bout of surgery and Wayne Bridge has been mentioned as a potential temporary replacement.

"It can only be a short-term solution for us because we have bought [Andre] Santos, we have Gibbs, we have [Thomas] Vermaelen who can play there, so we do not need a long-term solution.

"Long-term, I am sticking to Santos and Gibbs, I love both of them because they have a quality I like, which is to attack. I haven't made any enquiry yet [for Bridge], so for the moment not him or anyone else."

The other conundrum for Wenger is whether he should offer Henry a short-term deal, as he is already training with the north London club in the Major League Soccer off-season. He is heavily reliant on Van Persie for goals and he admits he may have to bring in reinforcements when Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho head off for a potential seven weeks at the African Cup of Nations.

On whether he is considering signing the club's record scorer, Wenger revealed he will make a decision before the new year. "That's why I have Christmas Day off," he added. "I have to think about that. Short-term is ideal for us, but I haven't made any enquiry yet. Thierry is not here at the moment. It has never come up in conversation.

"The 1st of January is the vital date for us. We are at the 23rd of December today, so we have seven days to make decisions and I will make a decision in the next seven days on players. I promise you will know."

Wenger is confident Gibbs can recover in time to make a push for the England squad for Euro 2012 – and that time out through injury could make the left-back stronger. "He is incredibly unlucky," Wenger said. "But he still can play in the Euros, because they are in June and we are in December. Normally, this injury would keep him out for four weeks, so there is still a good opportunity. I feel sometimes for players between 19 and 20, if they get injured, then their body adjusts to the requested physical level, then they can have a long period without injury."