Big Sam on: Arsenal

Sam Allardyce conducted his pre-match press conference at Chadwell Heath on Monday morning ahead of the game against Arsenal on Tuesday night.

The topics covered included his side's latest team news, Arsenal's UEFA Champions League hopes and the chances of his team obtaining a top ten finish.

Good morning Sam, Arsene Wenger has been speaking this morning about his side's fatigue and muscle injuries, as opposed to your side who've had nine days rest. Do you expect that to have an impact on the game tomorrow?

SA: "I think we all suffer in spells of difficulty when players can't recover in time and you factor in injuries that you have. We all know that weakens your team. We suffered a similar spell in December this season and it makes your life extremely difficult as a manager. Certainly with Arsenal's game load and some of the injuries they have, then yes they will be weaker than they possibly could be. They keep a Champions League place for all those years. They keep a squad of 25 international players and they're playing at the Emirates, so whatever difficulties they have it's still a hugely tough fixture for ourselves.

"Whatever team Arsene puts out, we still have to play at our best to get a result, particularly on their own patch. If we can seek an advantage by those problems that they have then it gives us a better chance of getting a result. It won't be any easier than it ever has been to get a result at the Emirates because the players that are actually playing won't fatigue until later in the game. It won't happen in the beginning of the game and we'll have to be on song from the start and fully focused on the job we have to do to try and get something."

The science around recovery from injuries has been talked about a lot, especially Arsenal, but you've also been through your own injury problems. How important is it to manage it in the right way?

SA: "As the years tick on there's more and more research and science that comes into the game about how to prevent injuries. The biggest key to any football club today is not to treat the players from the injury that they sustain, but to totally focus as best you can on your prevention of injury policy. You can't prevent trauma injuries, those are the injuries that are unpredictable. In today's football, they seem to be happening more and more because of the intensity that the game is played with. The change of direction, the jumping, landing, turning and collisions are much more volatile because of the pace of the game.

"Trauma injuries are becoming a bigger part of the game. Cruciate ligament injuries, metatarsal breaks and things like that. It's something that we all realise has increased over the last few years because of the development of the game. Trying not to sustain too many hamstrings, calves, thighs and muscle injuries is the best that you can possibly do. There's a lot of science behind it and the player today has to be dedicated in that area. Rather than just training and going home, there's sections that they have to do to keep their bodies in the best shape that they possibly can to not sustain those types of injuries."

You can have a key say in whether Arsenal miss out on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League this season. Is that a motivating factor for you?

SA: "No, not really. From our point of view, the success of the teams below us over the weekend and the results that were surprisingly pulled off mean that we still look down because we're not mathematically safe. For us, the motivation is to get some points for ourselves, not to stop Arsenal getting in the Champions League."

Arsene Wenger has taken some criticism this season, do you have an opinion on why that is?

SA: "I think that as always the man's career speaks for itself. Many people have probably been disappointed that he hasn't won anything over the last few years, but he can certainly put that right this year with his FA Cup final appearance. I'm sure that a lot of the focus is finishing in the top four, but also making sure they win the FA Cup. Compared to other years, that would then make for a more successful season. At this stage, he's suffered his injuries like everyone else at the wrong time. I think that nobody really takes into consideration the relevance of those injuries and the devastation that it has on your team. David Moyes has had the same problem and the huge amount of injuries that he's sustained means he hasn't been able to put the same eleven out, particularly defensive wise and of course Robin van Persie.

"We've had the same with a long-term injury to Andy Carroll. All our defenders got injured, particularly our centre halves, and that had a huge effect on us. When that spell comes, it's very, very difficult to maintain the level of performance and results you've achieved before that. We just have to keep going and have our squad ready to play whoever we play against. We've got five very tough games to go and we've got to pick up as many points as we can. Everybody looks at Arsenal now, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Tottenham and Manchester City, if you look at the form of all those teams, Arsenal have perhaps slipped a bit, but the rest are on top form. West Brom and Crystal Palace are achieving fantastic results at this time, so we've got five very difficult games to focus on one at a time."

Do you still think a top ten finish is achievable?

SA: "I don't think that we'll get a top ten finish now. I think the best we would try and get is to catch up with Stoke. Stoke have had a fantastic run recently and we've got to try and improve our position to get where they are. At this moment in time, it's one game at a time and a big game on Tuesday night which I hope the players are looking forward to. I hope they can repeat the performance they gave against Liverpool, because we took Liverpool right to the very edge of getting a result against them, but they just managed to pip us in the end."

What's your team news ahead of the game?

SA: "Kevin Nolan is our problem at the moment. He came off with a hamstring against Liverpool, obviously that's one that we have to be very careful about. It's unusual for Kevin to sustain a muscle injury, I think it's the first of his career, but we'll be very careful about how we handle him. Kevin is going to desperately want to play, so we'll probably wait until tomorrow to see how he is. Nearly everyone else is fit and raring to go. We'll pick a team that we think suits playing against Arsenal at the Emirates to go and get a result."