By Harry Sykes
Arsene Wenger is set to recall Carl Jenkinson to the Arsenal team for Saturday’s mouthwatering showdown against Manchester United.
The right-back is in line for only his third Gunners appearance since 2013-14 after it was confirmed by the manager that Hector Bellerin will be sidelined with an ankle injury.
Wenger revealed at a press conference on Thursday morning that Bellerin will be absent for four weeks with ligament damage sustained in the team’s 1-1 draw against Tottenham immediately before the international break.
The absence of the speedy Spaniard is a major blow for Arsenal, but paves the way for Jenkinson to rehabilitate his Arsenal career.
The 24-year-old was midway through a second season-long loan at West Ham in January when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury that sidelined him for nine months.
Jenkinson has subsequently made two appearances, including in the Arsenal’s 3-2 Champions League win at Ludogorets on 1 November.
He has climbed above Frenchman Mathieu Debuchy in the pecking order and could be one of two changes to the starting XI against United.
Wenger could also axe Alex Iwobi, who has been a regular starter this season but is yet to score from 14 appearances, although he has supplied three assists.
The Nigerian could be replaced by Aaron Ramsey, who is back to full fitness after the hamstring problem that sidelined him for the first few months of the campaign.
If Ramsey starts at Old Trafford, Walcott to switch to the opposite flank, where he would be encouraged to cut in on to his increasingly productive right foot.
The big decision for Wenger is whether to start Alexis Sanchez following the hamstring scare that had threatened to sideline him for a month.
The team’s leading scorer has insisted to the manager that he is fully fit in the wake of his two-goal matchwinning display for Chile on Tuesday night but the combination of his late return from international duty and Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off leave Wenger with a dilemma of whether to start him on the bench against United.
It is expected that behind the attacking midfielders will be central midfield pair Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka, who is expected to get the nod to start ahead of Mohamed Elneny. Santi Cazorla has not yet returned to training and will miss out once again with an achilles injury.
Regular defenders Nacho Monreal, Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny are set to be joined by Jenkinson, with Petr Cech in goal.
In other Arsenal team news, defender Per Mertesacker has revealed his motivation to return to full fitness.