sport

Ramsey ready for big month

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey believes Arsenal are ready to meet their "big month" head on.

The Gunners host Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday to start a run of six potential crunch fixtures before the end of January - with a Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich also looming on the not-too-distant horizon.

After an FA Cup replay against Swansea at Emirates Stadium next Wednesday, Arsenal then travel to Chelsea on January 20, before tackling West Ham in their rearranged Boxing Day fixture, which is followed by a possible FA Cup fourth-round tie at Brighton ahead of the visit of Liverpool.

Wales international Ramsey, however, insists the squad have the strength of character to cope with such a demanding schedule.

"It is a big month for us. We play some teams who are above us [in the Premier League] and we have an FA Cup game as well, so it is important to take these opportunities," Ramsey said on Arsenal Player.

"We have Manchester City at home and Chelsea away, games that we did well in last season, so hopefully we can do the same again this year and that will set us up nicely for the run in to the end of the season."

Arsenal have some decent form against City in recent encounters, beating the big-spending Blues 1-0 at Emirates Stadium in April and battling to a 1-1 draw away earlier this season.

Ramsey feels the Gunners can use those results as a positive for this weekend's showdown, where victory would keep them within striking distance of the top four.

"It will give us an extra bit of belief," he added.

"We beat them last year at home and with Yaya Toure gone to the Africa Cup of Nations, it is a big loss for them.

"He is a big player for them and so influential, so hopefully we can take full advantage of that and get another good result."

Arsenal have also seen their options hit by the African Nations Cup, as forward Gervinho is away with the Ivory Coast.

However, Arsene Wenger could see his midfield options boosted by the return of Abou Diaby.

The injury-plagued France international played for the Under-21s in their midweek draw against West Brom in what was a first competitive fixture since hobbling out against Chelsea on September 29 with a thigh problem.

Arsenal Under-21s coach Terry Burton said: "Diaby was arguably the pick of the senior players that came in.

"He came into the game and started to develop his all-round game, got on the ball and controlled the game.

"He can slow the tempo down or speed it up.

"Hopefully he has come through the game well."

Full-back Andre Santos also made his comeback from a stomach muscle injury, scoring the equaliser in a game which saw midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong, who had just returned from a loan spell at Charlton, shown a red card after collecting two late bookings and must now serve a suspension.

Arsenal, meanwhile, remain hopeful of pushing through an improved contract offer for Theo Walcott, with reports suggesting a new five-year deal worth around 90,000 could even be signed ahead of the City game.