Arsenal’s week has gone from bad to worse as their manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed that central defender Per Mertesacker will be missing for a long period of time due to a serious ankle injury.
The latest injury blow comes at a very bad time for the North Londoners, who will also be without the services of their other centre back Laurent Koscielny for tomorrow’s FA Cup clash with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Koscielny injured his knee in Arsenal’s recent 4-0 defeat to AC Milan at San Siro and while he is expected to fully recover in a week’s time, Mertesacker’s 2011/12 season could effectively be over.
The lanky German injured his ankle ligaments in last weekend’s come-from-behind win over Sunderland and immediately underwent surgery to repair the damage.
Earlier today, Wenger revealed: “Unfortunately he has had surgery and we have lost him for a while. How long I don’t know. He had reconstruction of his ligaments, so it will be long term.
Koscielny was subbed minutes before the halftime interval in the Champions League match, but his problem is not as bad as Mertesacker’s.
“He [Koscielny] had a scan yesterday and the news is quite good. He will be out for hopefully around a week. He will miss the Sunderland game, but he should be back for next week,” said the Arsenal boss.
Last weekend, Arsenal were made to work extremely hard by Sunderland for their 2-1 away win and tomorrow the teams and venue will be the same, but the competition will be the FA Cup instead of the Premier League.
Back then, Thierry Henry had rescued Arsenal with a late winner but his loan spell from New York Red Bulls has now come to an end. It means that there will be no Henry and a depleted back line for Wenger to pick from, but that’s nothing new. Hence, the Gunners will have to work even harder to progress to the next round of the FA Cup- a competition which is now their sole hope for a trophy this season.
Speaking in an interview with Arsenal Player, Wenger said, “This is a big opportunity for us. The FA Cup is one of the main targets and we have to go for it. Last season’s League Cup final defeat is very motivating because we were very disappointed about what happened last time at Wembley and we want to put that right.”
“I think it is something still in our heads, and it is difficult to swallow. We know if we can get to the final we can lift the trophy.”
Thomas Vermaelen was clearly not a 100 percent match fit against the Rossoneri in midweek, while Johan Djourou was his usually mediocre self. Arsenal’s final centre back option is Sebastien Squillaci, who is not considered for first team duty by Wenger anymore. Alex Song is capable of filling in at the back but that would create a huge vacuum in the midfield, where he is at his best.
Meanwhile, Gervinho has returned back to Arsenal after being a part of the losing Ivory Coast side in the African Nations Cup final. The tricky attacker is in the squad for tomorrow’s game but full-back Carl Jenkinson is still missing. The Finland under-21 international has been nursing a back injury for the past few weeks and although he hasn’t fully recovered from it yet, he is getting there.
Wenger also rubbished reports that left-back Kieran Gibbs, who made his comeback from injury against Milan, has suffered a new setback. The French manager admitted that Gibbs was poor in his comeback game but claimed that it was due to his lack of match sharpness and not any injury issues.
“Kieran played his first game in four months in Milan so of course it was a shock to go back to that level. But physically he’s all right. Carl’s back in full training on Monday. That’s good news for us,” Wenger added.