Saturday, February 21, 2009

Arshavin Will Start Against Sunderland

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed that club record signing Andrei Arshavin will make his debut against Sunderland at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

The Gunners are looking to maintain their bid for a top-four finish in the Premier League this season and hope the £15m Russian playmaker can help close the five point gap to fourth placed Chelsea.

The 27-year-old was named as a substitute for north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur shortly after his arrival from Zenit St Petersburg in early February, but did not make an appearance.

Arshavin has not played a competitive match since Dec 10, when Zenit lost 3-0 to Real Madrid in the Champions League, while the Russian Premier League season ended in late November and Wenger is undecided on whether he will start Arshavin against Sunderland or bring him on from the bench.

"He will be involved," Wenger told Arsenal TV. "But I have not decided what I will do with him yet."

The Gunners boss still has few doubts over the midfielder's match fitness but expects Arshavin to be fully ready in a week's time.

"He is still working on preparation and he is not qualified for the (Champions League) game against Roma (on Tuesday) so we can give him another week of hard work," said Wenger.

"At the end of next week, that will be three weeks with us and one week with Zenit, that should be enough."

However, Wenger had a setback when striker Eduardo was ruled out for two weeks with a hamstring injury just days after returning from a broken leg.

The Croatian international only made his comeback after a year out of the first team in Monday's FA Cup fourth-round victory against Cardiff, marking his return with two goals in the 4-0 success at Emirates Stadium; but his latest setback is not described as serious.

Wenger said: "Eduardo is out for two weeks. He picked up a hamstring injury two minutes before I took him off. What a nightmare.

"Nobody knows how it happened but I knew straight away after the game it would be a two-week job.

"It is nothing like he had before but I do know that little setbacks like this are part of being nine months out. After that long out, nobody plays six months on the trot. It is impossible.

"But at the same time it is a blow because, of course, he can score goals. He had shown that on Monday night."

Elsewhere, Emmanuel Eboue is back from suspension and Johan Djourou is fit following his sickness on Monday night.

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