Arsene Wenger was absent for his press conference on Thursday morning as the Arsenal boss was said to be feeling ill and had lost his voice.
Steve Bould, his assistant, stepped in for Wenger ahead of Arsenal’s home game against Stoke City on Sunday (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) and the former Arsenal center back revealed they will be playing their strongest team and not prioritizing their UEFA Europa League last eight tie next week.
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Bould gave an injury updated on Jack Wilshere and Alexandre Lacazette, with the former injured on England duty but he has been back training with the Gunners as they aim to secure sixth place in the Premier League table with a 16-straight home win against lowly Stoke City.
“Jack trained yesterday so he’s OK. Everybody else has come back as far as we’re aware. We’ll find out a bit more this morning, but Jack was OK yesterday,” Bould confirmed.
Bould was also asked if Lacazette, who injured his knee in February, would make his return to the Arsenal squad ahead of their key Europa League quarterfinal against CSKA Moscow next Thursday.
“That, I don’t know. He trained yesterday but whether he’ll be involved at the weekend or not, I’m not entirely sure,” Lacazette said. “It’s important for him to have as much training and match time as we give him. I’m not entirely sure [whether he’ll be involved on Sunday], so I can’t give you an answer. Sorry!”
Wilshere shaking off an injury will be good news for Arsenal’s fans as many would have feared the central midfielder was set for yet more time on the sidelines.
Yes, missing England’s friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy was a blow for Wilshere, but it’s likely he will still be in Gareth Southgate‘s squad for the World Cup this summer. With his contract running out on July 1, Wilshere’s future at Arsenal remains uncertain but there’s no doubting that he’s now one of the first names on the team sheet.
As for Lacazette, he has scored nine times in his debut season in the PL at Arsenal but the Frenchman was going through a bit of a lean spell before he was injured and the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January seemed to knock him down the pecking order slightly.
Having the clinical Frenchman back for a pivotal spell in the season will no doubt be a big boost and it seems likely he could jump off the bench on Sunday to get some key minutes.
The Europa League is Arsenal’s main aim now as they aim to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season.