Arsenal's Arsene Wenger: Back-three formation is 'an option' vs. Man City
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger has not ruled out using a back-three formation in Sunday's FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City, although he refused to give anything away about his tactical plans.
Wenger switched to three at the back for the first time in 20 years for Monday's 2-1 win at Middlesbrough to stop Arsenal's defence from leaking goals after four straight Premier League away defeats.
The 67-year-old could repeat the experiment at Wembley this weekend, although he remains without injured centre-back Shkodran Mustafi for the key clash.
"It's an option, yes. But what will I do? You will understand, I won't tell you now," Wenger told a news conference on Thursday.
It is no surprise that Wenger is keeping things close to his chest as City manager Pep Guardiola now has to prepare for two different tactical possibilities against an Arsenal side that is often criticised for being too predictable.
But Wenger said that was not the reason for his sudden tactical switch.
"It was more designed to give us a bit more defensive solidity because recently away from home we conceded too many goals," Wenger said.
Mustafi's absence with a thigh problem could convince Wenger to return to his normal back four, although 21-year-old Rob Holding performed well against Middlesbrough in his first Premier League start since August.
Danny Welbeck is also doubtful for the game after missing the Middlesbrough clash, while goalkeeper David Ospina and forward Lucas Perez are both still sidelined.
For Arsenal, Sunday's game represents perhaps the last opportunity to salvage a disappointing season, with the club struggling to secure Champions League qualification.
A win would certainly help turn the fan mood around and ease some of the pressure on the under-pressure manager.
But Wenger, who has yet to divulge whether he plans to stay in charge after this season, insisted that his own future will not be determined by the team's potential FA Cup success.
"It doesn't play any part in that," he said. "The FA Cup is a very important game for me because it's the next game and because it's an opportunity to win a trophy this season. So of course we are all fully focused on that. My future is Sunday."
Wenger also addressed Jack Wilshere's latest long-term injury, saying the midfielder's leg fracture should not require surgery and that he could be back in full training in July.
Wilshere, who has spent this season on loan at Bournemouth, was ruled out for the rest of the campaign on Wednesday with a fractured left fibula.
"We think it's a very simple fracture that doesn't need any surgery at all," Wenger said. "I had a meeting yesterday with our medical staff to see how we can liaise [with Bournemouth] and whether we have to bring him back.
"It's a fracture so there's not a lot you can do, it's just about when he can move again. The rehab will certainly be done here because the season will be over. The loan spell ends at the end of the season so during the break all the rehab will be made here."
It is the latest setback for Wilshere, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle and has a long history of injury problems.
"It's sad because Jack is a great football player with a great football brain. His career has been stopped by many injuries," Wenger said. "Today at the top level, the most important thing is the consistency of the presence. When a player's been out for a while, the game is of such an intensity that it always takes you a while to get your confidence back."
Wilshere is set to negotiate a new contract this summer with Arsenal as his current deal expires after next season.
But Wenger said that the injury has "nothing to do" with those talks, which have yet to begin.
The Arsenal boss also dismissed reports that Arsenal are close to signing Schalke left-back Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer.
Asked about reports that a deal was close, Wenger said he had "nothing" to say about it.
"We can deny that story at the moment," he added.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.