Gunners Form And Fitness Under Scrutiny For Run-In
Arsenal enter the run-in to the EPL season as Manchester United’s nearest challengers for the title but with numerous concerns over form and fitness.
The Gunners completed the re-signing of former goalkeeper Jens Lehmann as cover for current first-choice Manuel Almunia and selected him for a reserve match this week, with mixed results.
But there was better news about Swiss international defender Johan Djourou, who was thought likely to miss the rest of the season after receiving a shoulder injury in the Gunners’ FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford on March 12th but may now be fit in time for the Emirates EPL meeting with United on May 1st.
And while there was a brief injury scare for striker Robin Van Persie on international duty this midweek, the Netherlands striker will be fit to resume club duty straight away.
41-year-old Lehmann made his first Arsenal appearance since his comeback from retirement in the reserves’ 2-1 defeat at Wigan Athletic on Tuesday, giving a display described as “nervy”, “wobbly” and “containing a string of errors.”
Nonetheless, the German former international insisted: “It’s great to be back.”
The Arsenal line-up also included French former striker Jeremie Aliadiere, who was recently released by Championship outfit Middlesbrough and is training with the Gunners.
Djourou looks set to return to training “in around a month”, according to a club statement, after exploratory surgery on his right shoulder. Arsenal had originally ruled the 24-year-old out for the rest of the season and had described as “inaccurate” Swiss FA claims that Djourou’s injury was not as bad as feared.
However, they said this week: “We can confirm the positive news that there isn’t a need for reconstructive surgery. Johan will now begin a period of rehabilitation before returning to training in around a month.”
Van Persie limped out of the Netherlands’ 5-3 home win over Hungary in Euro 2012 qualifying on Tuesday, having put his side ahead before being badly fouled by Hungarian defender Vilmos Vanczak.
However, the 27-year-old’s international manager Bert Van Marwijk said after the game: “He got kneed in the thigh. But he can play with Arsenal again this weekend.”
Arsenal host struggling Blackburn Rovers in the EPL this Saturday at 3pm. They are five points behind Manchester United with a game in hand and an inferior goal difference, after drawing 2-2 at West Bromwich Albion in their last EPL fixture two weekends ago.
Tags: Arsenal, Gunners, Jens Lehmann, Robin Van Persie, EPL