Arsenal may blood Zelalem in FA Cup as Walcott warns Spurs
Teenager could come in as Wenger juggles team for FA Cup clash with local rivals
THE most eagerly-anticipated FA Cup tie of the weekend sees Arsenal entertain local rivals Spurs, with Gunners forward Theo Walcott warning the Lilywhites that it is a "bad time" for them to visit the Emirates.
Spurs are unbeaten under new manager Tim Sherwood, who replaced Andre Villas-Boas last month, but Arsenal remain top of the Premier League table after three wins and a draw over the Christmas period.
When asked if he thought it was a bad time to face Tottenham, Walcott replied: "It's going to be a bad time to play us as well."
He added that Arsenal were determined not to be beaten on their own turf and held the competition in high regard. "We're trying to make our stadium into a fortress," he explained. "And we are starting to do that."
Walcott also insisted that he, for one, was fully committed to the idea of the FA Cup, despite comments from Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert, who told the BBC that most Premier League clubs could do without the "distraction" of the competition.
"The FA Cup is always special for me, being English. I love the FA Cup," said Walcott.
However, the Daily Telegraph claims that Gunners boss Arsene Wenger may not be as enthusiastic about the cup and is prepared to blood some second string players in the clash on Saturday evening. It suggests that he will play teenager Gedion Zelalem, who is still only 16 but lit up Arsenal's pre-season tour of the Far East.
The young midfielder, who has been compared to Cesc Fabregas, recently returned from injury and has been training with the first team.
"Wenger has injury problems in midfield, with Aaron Ramsey out, Mesut Ozil unlikely to be risked and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain still not ready to make a playing return," says the paper, outlining the reasons for picking the teenager. "Jack Wilshere played two games in four days against Newcastle and Cardiff, and may need a rest."