Arsenal injury saga: Arteta and Debuchy out for months
Gunners undone by injuries yet again as players ruled out for most critical part of the season
A new year but the same old story for injury-hit Arsenal with Arsene Wenger revealing that he'll be without the services of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy until the final weeks of the season.
It's another bitter blow for Arsenal's manager, and the latest casualties join an injury list that has ravaged the club not just this season but for much of the past decade.
And so much for the "Forsythe effect", which was supposed to break the cycle of Emirates injuries. Described by The Guardian as a "fitness ace", Shad Forsythe had been one of four conditioning experts embedded with the German World Cup squad during their triumphant campaign in Brazil last summer. Wenger hoped that he would work similar wonders for the Arsenal players when he hired him in August but he's proved helpless faced with an unprecedented run of bad luck.
The season began badly with Olivier Giroud breaking his foot against Everton in only the second league game of the campaign, and since then Wenger has looked on in disbelief as Debuchy, Nacho Monreal, Arteta, David Ospina, Laurent Koscielny, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott have all been laid off for lengthy spells. Then there are the minor niggles that have affected other players and no Arsenal injury rundown would be complete without mentioning the permanently crocked Abou Diaby, who has made a total of 22 appearances in four seasons.
The latest double injury blow means Wenger must do without the pair for the most critical part of the season; not only is there the FA Cup to defend, but next month Arsenal face Monaco in the last 16 of the Champions League and, most important of all, there's the little matter of the Premier League with the Gunners facing a real fight this season to finish in the top four.
Discussing Arteta's injury, Wenger told the club's official website: "He had a limited mobility in his ankle and some persistent inflammation that had an impact on his calf... Mikel has had surgery which went well."
Wenger expects the 32-year-old Spaniard to be back in action in April, as he does Debuchy. The French right-back has had a miserable time of it since arriving at the Emirates from Newcastle in the summer. An ankle injury sustained in the 2-2 draw against Manchester City in September sidelined him for three months, and in just his seventh match back he dislocated his shoulder in the win over Stoke last weekend following a collision with Marko Arnautovic.
"Mathieu had a surgery on his right shoulder following the injury," said Wenger, who exasperation was evident. "It's very unfortunate for Mathieu, it's unbelievable because he's had two surgeries in the same season."
While the 29-year-old Debuchy will no doubt be back next season for Arsenal, The Independent speculates that Arteta's fragile ankle could spell trouble for the Spaniard. "With his contract up at the end of the season and the expectation that he will not return until April at the earliest, there are fears that he may have played his final game in the red and white of Arsenal," commented the paper.