Arsene Wenger admits he may have to ask Kolo Toure to make a dash straight back from the African Nations Cup as the Arsenal boss is ‘down to the bare bones’ for Monday night’s Premier League clash against Blackburn.
Centre-back Toure has been away with Ivory Coast for the best part of a month, but could not help the Elephants reach this weekend’s final after they were beaten by Egypt.
With Switzerland defender Philippe Senderos struggling to shake off a knee problem which was aggravated during the midweek international against England at Wembley, the Arsenal manager revealed he was considering all his options.
‘I have not called Kolo yet, but I will try to see if he can take a flight from Accra to London, as Ivory Coast play [third-place game] on Saturday afternoon,’ said Wenger.
‘Otherwise it will be Gilberto, or Justin Hoyte at centre half.’
The Arsenal manager continued: ‘Overall we are very, very short and it is down to the bare bones.’
Wenger has almost a full side either unavailable or doubtful as he prepares for the visit of Rovers, when Arsenal could again be looking to get back to the top of the table over Manchester United, who host rivals Manchester City tomorrow.
Midfielder Mathieu Flamini picked up a hamstring problem while on international duty with France, and goalkeeper Manuel Almunia has been laid low by a virus after missing last weekend’s win at Manchester City with a twisted thumb.
Abou Diaby (calf) is out, along with Tomas Rosicky (hamstring), Robin van Persie (thigh), Johan Djourou (groin) and Denilson (hamstring).
Emmanuel Eboue is also still away with Ivory Coast, while Alex Song has helped Cameroon reach the final.
Wenger will give Senderos every opportunity to prove his fitness, but is not overly hopeful.
‘Philippe Senderos came off injured in midweek with a medial knee ligament and is a major doubt,’ said the Arsenal manager.
‘He has played with it before and we will see on Monday. I don’t rule him out completely and he is positive about it.
‘However, our medical team are a bit less. He wants to test it out over the weekend.’
Wenger added: ‘Diaby, in fairness, picked his injury up last week at Man City. We sent him on international duty with information explaining that he was injured and France did not play him.’
Wenger knows there is now little margin for error as the race for the title look set to go to the wire.
‘The mental aspect of the game will be important, but so will the direct confrontations [between United, Arsenal and Chelsea],’ he said. ‘They have a major part to play.