LONDON, England, September 14 – Arsene Wenger admits he will wait until the last minute before deciding whether to risk France midfielder Abou Diaby in Saturday’s Premier League clash against Southampton.
Wenger revealed the hip injury Diaby suffered during France’s victory over Finland last week is not serious, but he is unsure whether to start him this weekend.
Diaby, who has been plagued by fitness problems over the last year, sustained his latest complaint in the World Cup qualifier in Helsinki, where he scored the winner, and returned to Arsenal after being ruled out of France’s midweek clash against Belarus.
Wenger believes Diaby could play against Southampton, but may not risk him ahead of the Champions League opener against Montpellier three days later at Stade de la Mosson.
“He has a very minor problem and needs to be assessed,” Wenger said. “He is in a position where we can certainly play him.
“We just have to assess the risk to play him or not. At the moment it’s really a 50-50 situation as we play again on Tuesday night.
“We won’t take a gamble on him, especially because of his history.”
Poland’s Wojciech Szczesny is expected to return in goal on Saturday, while England winger Theo Walcott will need a late fitness chech after recovering from a virus that forced him to miss Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.
But Bacary Sagna is still ruled out for up to three weeks as he recovers from a broken leg and the French right-back has held clear-the-air talks with Wenger over comments questioning the sale of Robin van Persie and Alex Song before the start of the season.
“I believe any player or any employee always had to defend the company he works for,” Wenger said.
“And if he is not completely happy with it then he has to go somewhere else. That is basically what I think. That is what I say to everybody.”
Wenger is still hopeful of Sagna signing a new contract to commit himself to Arsenal beyond the end of next season.
“It will be discussed,” Wenger said. “I expect him to stay and I want him to stay.
“He has always shown total commitment on the football pitch – for the team and the club.”
Wenger’s own contract also expires in 2014 and Arsenal are ready to offer him a new deal – but the Frenchman insists this is not high on his priorities.
He will assess his own performance before deciding whether to stay longer.
“I have to consider if I do well or not. If I don’t do well, I have to consider my future,” he said.
“I’ve been at the club long enough to have confidence in the people I work with. But I will assess my own performances and then make a decision.
“At the moment we are not there. Two years is a long time in my job. I just want to do well for the club as long as I can.”
Wenger is believed to be an admirer of Saints defender Luke Shaw and he could get an up-close glimpse of the youngster, who is in line to make his Premier League debut against Arsenal as Danny Fox is struggling to recover from a groin injury.
Nigel Adkins’ team have lost their first three matches of the season and remain the only top-flight team without a point this season, although they have played Manchester City and United already.
“We knew the first four games would be challenging but there are lots of positives, we have brought players in and we’ll regroup and play football a certain way,” Adkins said.
“We have to win games, we know that and we’re positive about that. We’ll get ready for the next one and fight all the way.
“We managed to score goals against United and City and have to make sure we keep doing that.”