Under-21 League: Arsenal v Reading - Preview

Pre-Match Report

Under-21 League: Arsenal v Reading - Preview

Underhill Stadium - Barnet

By Rob Kelly

Another week, another encouraging comeback. Following the return of Jack Wilshere seven days ago, now it’s the turn of Bacary Sagna to make the final steps on his road to recovery.

It has been a tough 12 months for the France international. Almost a year to the day, he fractured the fibula in his right leg during the north London derby at Tottenham. It was a devastating blow for this most uncompromising of defenders.

Nearly four months later, and after countless hours rehabilitating in the gym, Sagna received a standing ovation from the Emirates faithful as he returned against Aston Villa in the FA Cup. But worse was to follow - he fractured his fibula once more against Norwich in May.

Such a blow could have devastated lesser players, but not the intensely focused Sagna. The right back has worked assiduously to regain full fitness and returned to full training more than a week ago. Now he has the chance to take another major stride forward for the under-21s against Reading tonight.

“He needs some games because he has not played for five months,” Arsene Wenger said on Friday. “He has been in training for a week now so he should be capable of playing for an hour.”

It is a test Sagna is sure to relish, and he will enjoy reuniting with Wilshere and Frimpong on the pitch. The midfield duo played 63 and 70 minutes respectively at West Brom last week and will be looking to step up their rehabilitation at Underhill.

While Wenger is pleased with Wilshere’s recovery after 14 months out with ankle and knee problems, he is preaching patience over his protégé.

"Jack is doing very well but we need to be a bit patient," he said. "He has played 60 minutes in the reserve team and he needs a few games, progressive build-up to get his body used again to competition, to shocks, to fights.

"But he is doing extremely well, the situation looks very good. We have to be cautious, not crazy, because of his talent you are always pushed in a situation where you would like to rush him back, and we have to resist that.

"He is working very, very hard [in training]. The body is like that, when you have been out of competition for 14 months it takes a long time to get your sharpness back. You cannot rush it.”

After two successive defeats, Terry Burton will be hoping for a return to form after his side slipped to second in National Group One of the Under-21 Premier League. But they face a stiff challenge against a Reading side who were sharp enough to thrash West Brom 6-1 at the end of August, and who lie just three points behind them in the table.

  • We will have live updates throughout tonight’s game from 6.55pm (UK time) on the @ArsenalLive Twitter account
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