Football

Wenger to stick with four-man defence

Arsene Wenger looks set to stick with a four-man backline for Arsenal's upcoming games, including the League Cup quarter-final against West Ham tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The French manager, who had favoured a back four for nearly 20 years since arriving at north London, opted for a three-man rearguard in April this year in a bid to plug a leaky backline.

QUARTER-FINAL
ARSENAL WEST HAM

An extra centre back stabilised the defence and they even went all the way to win the FA Cup by beating Chelsea in final, after overcoming Manchester City in the semis.

However, it also came at a price - the Gunners have had to sacrifice some fluidity in attack, prompting Wenger to experiment with a back four in the Europa League.

He kept to the back four again for the 0-0 draw with West Ham on Dec 14 and last Saturday's 1-0 win over Newcastle United.

Although the Gunners scored only one goal in those two matches, they created 45 chances and Wenger believes that bodes well.

When asked on Arsenal Player if he would continue with the system, he said: "It's possible, yes. Especially, we were mobile at the back, built the game up well and it gives us one more player to go forward.

"When you don't score as much as you want, sometimes you look at every single thing and that is why I went for it."

Wenger confirmed that Theo Walcott is back from a groin problem and will start against the Hammers at the Emirates.

He does not plan to field defender Shkodran Mustafi, who is available again after a thigh injury, probably with an eye on Saturday morning's Premier League clash with Liverpool.

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey continues his recovery from a hamstring problem and is likely to play only after the New Year.

LANZINI CHARGED BY FA

West Ham manager David Moyes will have largely the same squad that beat Stoke 3-0 on Saturday, adding that goalkeeper Joe Hart will start.

Andy Carroll, who has trained despite having a bad back, could also return.

Said Moyes: "We are short on players at the moment, but we would have changed one or two. Our priority is to get away from the bottom of the league, but nothing would give me more joy than reaching a cup final."

Moyes also expressed surprise that Hammers midfielder Manuel Lanzini was charged by the English FA yesterday for "successful deception of a match official" after winning a controversial penalty during their win over Stoke.

Said Moyes: "I'm a bit surprised. The referee was 10 metres from the ball, nothing was blocking his vision, the defender made a challenge for the ball and didn't get it. So, they're going against the referee.

"The Goals on Sunday panel all said it was a definite penalty.

"We're going to think about whether we appeal or not. It's strange that three people on Sunday thought it was a penalty and three people today think it probably wasn't."

Lanzini has until 2am tomorrow morning to respond to the charge. - WIRE SERVICES

Football