Date: 6th January 2017 at 1:39pm
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Manager Arsene Wenger has been speaking about the weekend’s FA Cup third round clash against Preston North End and as the joint most successful gaffer in the competition’s history he’s insisted he’s taking it seriously once again this year.

With Preston up next at Deepdale Wenger held his usual pre game press conference this week and he told the Official Site that he was taking the competition as seriously as he always does, and whilst there will be first team changes like normal, the aim is to win and book our place in the fourth round.

He also didn’t buy into the competition being devalued in recent years.

‘It is a big priority for us. We have shown historically that we care about it, and it is a massive competition for everybody. To win the FA Cup is always a target each year. We know as well that after a congested Christmas period that the third round is always a tricky game. That is why I believe it is a mental challenge for the Premier League teams to prepare well and not have a bad surprise – especially when you go to a Championship team, as it is always difficult.’

Wenger went on to say about the yearly debates that surround how important and special the FA Cup is in the modern game.

‘It`s a debate every year. I personally have no special solution but when April and May comes and teams go to Wembley, it`s something special. In January, people do not really know if they can win it or not. It`s a special occasion, a special trophy and in every single country, everybody dies to win the cup. I believe it`s still the same in England. Maybe in the past it was even more important because the European Cup wasn`t as important, but it`s a special occasion for me.’

With January upon us and a few days of the transfer window passing, Wenger was obviously asked about plans for signings and potentially outgoings.

‘In our club, who is going out? Nobody at the moment. Who is coming in? Nobody. The best way would`ve been to get Cazorla back, to get Danny Welbeck back. Anyway, there is very little hope to find players of that quality in the January transfer market. So the best way to deal with that is to get our injured players back.’

Asked specifically about the speculation surrounding Carl Jenkinson who has been linked with Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, and Mathieu Debuchy he said simply there were no offers for them at this time but he wasn’t going to predict the future.

‘No. We`ll see what happens.’

With the media linking us with Porto defender Ricardo Pereira, he was asked if we had any interest in the player and he rubbished the press invention saying he’s someone we’re not looking at.

‘No, we are not.’

Going back to Preston, he was asked about Danny Welbeck’s progress in training following his injury and whether or not he’d play.

Wenger said he’d been happy with his progress so far but he was pencilled in for an Under 23 game on Friday so whether he was involved at the weekend as well hadn’t yet been decided.

‘I haven`t decided yet, but he could be – it depends on Lucas a little bit, it also depends on how he feels. Physically his fitness is at quite a good level, but of course the ideal way is to give him two or three games with the under-23s. But the situation is not always ideal, sometimes you have to hurry up.’

He went on to say.

‘He wants to play. But Danny is as well conscious of taking his time. He came back after a long injury and had a setback so he suffered a lot. At the moment, I think he listens well to what people advise him to do, even if he is naturally impatient. After you`ve been out for such a long time you do not want a setback.’

Wenger did confirm that should he be involved he would obviously be on the bench and not starting however.

As for wider team news, Lucas is a doubt with an ankle problem following the last match and neither Theo Walcott nor Kieran Gibbs are ready for a return – although Walcott is the closer.

Francis Coquelin’s hamstring problem will keep him out for three to four weeks he guesses, but the results weren’t back from his scans as he spoke.

As for Mesut Ozil.

‘He is coming in today, and will be assessed by the doctor but he has been in bed for two weeks so I cannot imagine I will involve him on Saturday. It is flu, a throat infection – I don`t know exactly.’

So for overall squad selection.

‘We will play with 90 per cent of the squad, I will rest Koscielny because he came off with fatigue, of course Ospina will play, maybe Alexis I will rest certainly, but the rest will play.’

Asked about Santi Cazorla.

‘At the moment, he is far from returning. It`s not going as quickly as I imagined it, so certainly in January he will not come back. It could be a bit longer (three months). At the moment I don`t really know, but I just have a schedule that he is not planned at the moment to go outside and run. I think once a player goes outside and runs without any problems, you come six weeks. At the moment he has not been out so that`s why I say in January he will certainly not play.’

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