Arsenal agony as Giroud joins injury list ahead of Marseille
Knee injury sustained at end of Sunderland game means Giroud could miss Champions League tie
ARSENE WENGER, over the moon at Arsenal topping the Premier League table following Saturday's 3-1 win away at Sunderland, could be feeling as sick as a parrot by the end of the day. Not because Liverpool will leapfrog Arsenal if they beat Swansea tonight, but because there could be further bad news regarding his ever-lengthening injury list.
Even before Saturday's trip to the northeast, Arsenal were down to the bare bones of their squad, with nine players out of action for one ailment or another. They include Santi Cazorla, the Spanish midfielder, who picked up an ankle injury on international duty last week which means, according to Wenger, "he will be out for a few weeks".
Then, in the closing minutes of Saturday's victory, Olivier Giroud damaged his knee as he attempted to convert's Aaron Ramsey's cross into Arsenal's fourth goal. It was an innocuous looking incident but the French striker hobbled off and when Wenger was asked if Giroud could miss Wednesday's clash with Marseille he replied: "That's my worry... He is the player at the moment that would be very difficult for us [to replace]."
The man who did replace Giroud on Saturday was in fact just a boy, 17-year-old Chuba Akpom, who was making his first appearance for the Gunners. Giroud later attempted to reassure Arsenal fans over the weekend that he would be OK for their opening encounter in the Champions League, tweeting: "My knee is ok don't worry! Thanks for your support!"
Nonetheless, the BBC reports that Wenger is anxiously awaiting a medical bulletin. If Giroud is sidelined it will be a heavy blow for the Gunners, for whom he's scored in every league game this season.
With Lukas Podolski and Yaya Sanogo among the injured, Wenger would be forced to play Theo Walcott in a striking role - and as the winger showed against Sunderland, it's not a position best suited to his talents. Walcott could - should - have had a hat-trick against the Black Cats but he spurned three glorious opportunities in a game the Gunners might have wrapped up by half-time.
As it was they led only 1-0 at the break, Giroud's goal on 11 minutes the result of a sumptuous pass from new signing Mesut Ozil. The German was suffering the effects of a stomach bug - the same virus that ruled team-mate Per Mertesacker out of the game - but he still showed touches of genuine class.
"He had an outstanding first half and dropped physically in the second half," reflected Wenger. "He was sick on Thursday night and I decided only today to play him. He had a stomach bug and didn't feel well."
Outstanding as Ozil was, he was outshone by Aaron Ramsey, who continued his scintillating start to the season with a brace of beautifully-taken goals. Ramsey it was who scored the late winner in Marseille the last time the two sides met in the Champions League, so perhaps there's hope yet for the Gunners on Wednesday night.