Wenger wants Arsenal to take minnows seriously

Theo Walcott (No. 14) could be assigned a central striking role at the Maksimir Stadium where the England forward came up with a hat-trick for his country in 2008.
Theo Walcott (No. 14) could be assigned a central striking role at the Maksimir Stadium where the England forward came up with a hat-trick for his country in 2008.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsenal are considering sending Jack Wilshere for an operation on a hairline fracture in his left leg as early as this week, which could lead to the midfielder being out of action for three months.

The news will come as a blow to both the player - who has battled through a string of fitness issues in recent seasons - and the English football club. Forward Danny Welbeck is also slated to be on the sidelines until at least Christmas following knee surgery.

Arsenal travel to Croatia for their Champions League opener against Dinamo Zagreb today on the back of a 2-0 home win over Stoke City which sustained their recovery in the English Premier League.

But Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich loom on the horizon for the Gunners in Group F.

Hence, manager Arsene Wenger - who begins an 18th successive season in Europe's premier club competition - is keen to avoid any slip-ups against Dinamo and Olympiakos before that mouthwatering Oct 20 showdown.

"It is important we go to Zagreb highly focused and conscious at what is at stake there," he told Arsenal's official website.

"You can be quickly out of the Champions League and we want to start well.

"I think it is important to start well because the hunger of a team is shown as well in how well you go in every competition."

Wenger could retain Theo Walcott in a central striking role at the Maksimir Stadium where the England forward netted a hat-trick for his country in 2008.

"I think he has an eye for the goal," the manager said of the player who opened the scoring in Saturday's win over Stoke.

"He will become an instinctive finisher when he has a couple of goals behind him."

However, German defender Per Mertesacker is not expected to be involved having just recovered from a virus.

He was also involved in a minor traffic accident on Monday.

Dinamo will be without defensive midfielder Goncalo Santos due to suspension as they aim to end a dismal record against English opposition and in the Champions League.

The Croatian club have lost their previous six games against English rivals. They have played 15 Champions League matches without success since overcoming Sturm Graz in September 1999.

However, Zoran Mamic's side claimed the Croatian league title last season without suffering any defeat. They are in the midst of an astonishing 41-match unbeaten run in all competitions stretching back to last November.

The latest example of this rampant form came in a 4-0 demolition of their local rivals Lokomotiva over the weekend.

"We are playing so well," defender Leonardo Sigali was quoted as saying by the Daily Star.

"If we play against Arsenal like we did against Lokomotiva, who knows what can happen.

"At a full Maksimir Stadium, we are confident. Arsenal need to take us seriously or they are in for a surprise. We are creating chances and looking dangerous."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline 'Wenger wants Arsenal to take minnows seriously'. Print Edition | Subscribe