Arsene Wenger ready to gamble as Arsenal head to Leeds

Arsene Wenger ponders whether to rest his big-name players for tonight’s FA Cup replay with Leeds United

ARSENE Wenger is weighing up an FA Cup selection gamble tonight as he rotates his side for the third-round replay against Leeds United at Elland Road.

The Gunners are still fighting on four fronts, and their attacking quartet of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri are all in line to be rested after playing the majority of Arsenal’s recent matches.

With a league match with Wigan to come on Saturday and a Carling Cup semi-final second-leg against Ipswich on Tuesday evening, Wenger admitted the necessity of keeping his squad fresh may lead him to rest his big name players for tonight’s clash – but he refused to reveal who will start.

“[There will be] a few changes because we play on Wednesday, on Saturday and on Tuesday night. I will rotate but I will not tell you now how many players will be changed because I haven’t decided yet,” he said.


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With Aaron Ramsey ready for a first-team return after his long injury lay-off and Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky, Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner all waiting in the wings, Wenger has plenty of options ahead of the visit to Yorkshire.

The Gunners were poor in the first game against Leeds at the Emirates, with only a last minute Fabregas penalty keeping them in the competition.

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And they were similarly lacklustre in last week’s 1-0 defeat at Ipswich in the semi-final first leg, where a surprisingly strong line-up looked leaden-footed and bereft of attacking quality, and Wenger is demanding an improvement.

He added: “The speed of our display, the speed of thought, the sharpness of our game [must improve]. We want to be sharper and more positive, we started the game [against Leeds] a little bit off our usual level. That means first, mentally, of all you want to switch on much quicker.”

Wenger may also be tempted into resting centre-back Johan Djourou, who only recently returned after a knee injury but has been plunged into first-team action due to Thomas Vermaelen’s Achilles problem and Sebastian Squillaci’s hamstring injury.

That could see Alex Song drop back into defence, or even a start for Spanish youngster Ignasi Miguel alongside Laurent Koscielny, while Wojciech Szczesny will start in goal, as he is currently the only fit first-team keeper at the club.

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