McManaman defended by Martinez

Arsene Wenger still believes Arsenal will secure UEFA Champions

League football next season despite admitting key midfielder Jack

Wilshere’s return has been delayed.

The Gunners are currently in fifth place in the standings, four

points behind Tottenham but they have a game in hand on their north

London rivals.

Wenger is hopeful Wilshere, who has missed the last two games

with an ankle injury and not featured since the defeat by Spurs on

March 3, will return for the Norwich game on April 13.

The England international has been given an additional week to

recover from his injury after the Gunners deferred his rehab.

“We’ve got nine games to go – five at home and four away,” said

the Arsenal manager. “The form we showed against Bayern was very

good. We have a chance to finish in the top four.

“We have the experience of a few years and a special desire to

do it together. It’s a good opportunity for us. We want to grab

this chance. If we are consistent we will do it. We’re not focused

on Tottenham, but the way we want to play.

“Regarding Jack? I think two weeks on Sunday. Not the next game,

but the game after. We deferred his rehab and gave him an extra

week’s rest. Medically, it was wise to do it.”

Wenger was phlegmatic about the pelvic muscle injury that Theo

Walcott picked up while away with England, adding: “Walcott is an

accident that could have happened here.”

Kieran Gibbs is also expected to miss out against Reading on

Saturday with flu.

Referee Mark Halsey missed the knee-high tackle during Wigan’s

2-1 victory at the DW Stadium a fortnight ago and McManaman was not

punished retrospectively because one of the officials had seen the

incident.

McManaman, 21, was confronted by an angry Newcastle assistant

boss John Carver at half-time and figures within football have

queued up to condemn the tackle.

It was initially feared Haidara had suffered a serious injury

but Newcastle have since confirmed he sustained only bad bruising

and soft tissue damage, although no date has yet been set for his

return.

Martinez said: “I think we’ve been going on and on too much

about it. I think it was a football incident. We lost Ryo Miyaichi

a couple of weeks back and he had to go through surgery and he’s

out for the season. Those are incidents that happen in the

game.

“I think we’re taking things out of context here. I think the

whole incident has been a bit of an argument about the refereeing

in the game. It was a challenge with no real intent. It was an

unfortunate incident that happens on a football pitch.

“I think we’ve been talking too much about it and it’s a bit

unfair on a young man to have to suffer that.”