While Arsenal are currently only two points behind surprise Premier League leaders Leicester City, the Gunners are in the midst of somewhat of an injury imbroglio. The latest players to be sidelined are stars Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla, with manager Arsene Wenger breaking the news about their absences following his team’s 3-1 victory over Sunderland on Saturday.
Wenger explained that Sanchez’s injury is somewhat positive, as the Chilean is recovering in his native country and should return to action by the end of the month. “[Alexis] is used to working there with the national team physio,” said Wenger. “I think it will have a double benefit. He will not be miserable here, he will be well treated there and it will give him a kind of mid-season break, which you all want!”
However, news about Cazorla’s knee injury was not as positive. ”We know now it is a rupture,” claimed Wenger. “It’s not the season (over) but it is at least three months, maybe four. He has had surgery, 48 hours ago. He wanted the chance to come back quickly so he didn’t want to wait for 25 opinions, so he decided to go straight away. The guy said it’s a clear case. It’s a rupture of the external knee ligament, so he said ‘OK, let’s do it straight away.'”
With Cazorla out until April, something that is certainly worrisome for a player about to turn 31, the injury leaves a massive hole in the middle of the pitch. If losing the Spaniard wasn’t bad enough, defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin is also said to be out until at least February with a similar knee issue as well.
With the Gunners forced to revamp their central midfield, Aaron Ramsey will fill the Cazorla’s role for the time being, and Mathieu Flamini will provide cover for the injured Coquelin. Ramsey featured in central midfield for the first time in quite a while this weekend against Sunderland and was superb. The Wales international scored a goal and set up another in the North London club’s victory.
On the positive side of Arsenal injury news, Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott both made their returns to the squad against Sunderland. After Alexis comes back, presumably around mid-December, the next Gunner to return to the pitch could be Jack Wilshere. The 23-year-old midfielder is said to be progressing well and will provide a major boost to the thin Arsenal squad once fit.
Prior to suffering his leg injury back in August, Wilshere was arguably the England national team’s top player from 2014 through the first half of this year. The midfielder’s outstanding play for the Three Lions was highlighted in the 3-2 victory over Slovenia in June as Wilshere netted a brace and was the Man of the Match.
Wilshere’s best position on the pitch is in central midfield, where he can distribute the ball to his teammates going forward and show off his tackling abilities in the middle of the field; however, the Englishman can theoretically be deployed in any midfield position. His versatility should be especially beneficial to the Gunners with the amount of injuries the club is currently enduring.
The use of Wilshere in the central midfield will likely bring the very best of what the player offers to the club, but with Ramsey seemingly thriving in that position, Wilshere could possibly (however not very likely) play next to the Welshman in a more defensive position. In addition to the deeper role, using him in the number 10 role could give Mesut Özil rest when needed along the way. Wilshere has also occasionally featured out on the flanks with some success (including the match in which he scored that team goal against Norwich two seasons ago).
Whatever Wenger decides to do during the January transfer period, a fit Wilshere (fingers crossed) will surely help revitalize the Gunners squad while other players are on the mend. The midfielder is also certain to bring some much needed grit and tenacity to the starting XI, something that is noticeably missing ever since Coquelin was injured nearly a few weeks ago.
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