Arsenal injury saga continues – Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere out
Fitness guru Shad Forsythe has a saga on his hands with Gunners dropping like flies
Six weeks into the season and Arsenal have about as many players on the treatment table as they do points in the Premier League. Their 1-1 draw at home to Tottenham on Saturday moved them up to fourth on ten points – six shy of leaders Chelsea – but the point came with a heavy price: injuries to Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta.
The trio of midfielders are definitely out of Wednesday's Champions league clash with Galatasaray, a home game that the Gunners must win given their 2-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in their opening group encounter, and they could also all miss next Sunday's vital trip to Chelsea in the Premier League. Lose at Stamford Bridge and the Blues will have opened up a daunting nine point gap on their north London rivals.
"I don't know how long they will be out but they will be out next week," said Arsene Wenger in the aftermath of Saturday's 1-1 draw against Spurs. "I think Ramsey is a hamstring (injury), and Arteta is a calf. Wilshere is an ankle."
Arteta and Ramsey were both withdrawn in the first half of Saturday's match, and The Independent says that Wilshere's injury was sustained when he turned his ankle "after a challenge from Danny Rose which on another day might have been a penalty". Wilshere battled on but was eventually replaced by Alexis Sanchez just after the hour mark.
Wenger appeared dumbstruck by the latest misfortune to befall his side, reeling off the casualty list to reporters. "Suddenly, we are short because if we lost three players today, let's not forget we had already two out on long-term (striker Olivier Giroud and defender Mathieu Debuchy) plus (Theo) Walcott, that's six. (Abou) Diaby is not ready, seven." He appears to have forgotten about defender Nacho Monreal, who has a back problem, while there are also question marks over the fitness of Mathieu Flamini and Kieran Gibbs, although both played on Saturday.
Is he concerned? "It starts to become a worry," he admitted. Referring to Ramsey, Wenger said that he had been rested for the League Cup match against Southampton last week in order to be in great shape for the visit of Spurs. "It's a surprise because he's usually a resistant boy," added the Arsenal boss, overlooking the fact that the Welsh midfielder was out for over three months last season with a thigh injury that proved slow to heal.
The 32-year-old Arteta has been increasingly prone to injury in recent seasons, with the Spaniard showing signs of his age. But it's the health of Wilshere that will be causing Wenger the most concern. The 22-year-old England midfielder has been troubled by his ankle on and off for three seasons and the prospect of another lengthy spell on the sidelines will cast a gloomy cloud over the Emirates as the squad prepares for the visit of Galatasaray.
It's all so different from a couple of months ago when the club excitedly announced the hiring of Shad Forsythe, described by The Guardian as a "fitness ace". One of four conditioning specialists embedded in the German World squad, Forsythe arrived at the Emirates with a simple brief: eradicate the injury problems that had bedevilled Arsenal in recent seasons.
"Forsythe could turn out to be Arsenal's most important signing of the summer," declared the Guardian.
It was premature to expect him to perform miracles from the outset but no one could have imagined the extent of the Gunners' injury woes with September still not out. Unusually for Arsenal all their current problems stem from incidents in matches rather than in training, and (before the weekend) most were not muscle-related.
Forsythe will earn his corn by guiding the players back to fitness, which has been a problem for Arsenal in the past. But given the number of squad members he is now working with, there can be no doubt Forsythe has a saga on his hands.