Sanchez and Ramsey injured as Arsenal curse strikes again
Arsene Wenger admits he is to blame as he loses vital players in win over Leicester
Arsenal 2 Leicester City 1. At first glance Tuesday evening turned out well for the Arsenal faithful. Not only did their team recover from Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Tottenham by beating bottom-of-the-table Leicester, but their north London rivals lost to Liverpool, allowing the Gunners to move above them into fourth spot.
But as has often been the case with Arsenal of late, the good news came with some bad – namely, yet more injury concerns. In a season when just about every member of the first team squad has suffered some form of affliction, Arsenal are now contemplating embarking upon the most crucial part of the season without Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez.
Both picked up injuries against Leicester with Ramsey lasting just nine minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute. The 24-year-old Welshman hobbled off on 82 minutes with what looked a recurrence of his hamstring injury, while Sanchez hurt his knee in the first-half and was eventually replaced on 68 minutes.
Why it took so long to haul off the Chilean, Arsenal's top scorer this season, was a question put to Wenger in the post-match press conference. It was apparent to everyone in the Emirates, and the millions watching on TV, that Sanchez was labouring after appearing to twist his knee half an hour into the match.
With the Gunners playing Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday, and then Monaco in a fortnight's time in the last 16 of the Champions League, the sensible course of action would surely have been to substitute Sanchez, who has only just returned from a hamstring injury, and not risk the injury worsening, particularly as Wenger had stressed before the match how important it was to keep him fit.
"I was ready to take him off at half-time," conceded Wenger. "But he said, 'No, it's OK, I can go on.' When I watched him play I thought, 'No, that hasn't [improved].' Sometimes when you run it off it's just a kick but he became worse and I didn't see him in the second half."
Wenger said Sanchez will have the injury examined today, and Ramsey will undergo tests on his hamstring, but he admitted he feared the worst for both players, particularly the Welsh midfielder. "Just visually, it didn't look good," he said. "When a guy stops straight away and sits down, that's not good news. There's a recurrence now of a few muscular injuries and it's difficult - we haven't found out why. I basically left him out today because I wanted to be cautious with him. I had to bring him on - I had a hesitation between [Mathieu] Flamini and him - because we lacked a bit of offensive power. It was not the best of decisions."
It's rare to hear Wenger admit to an error on his part, but he must realise that in risking Ramsey and allowing Sanchez to remain on the pitch, he has in all probability added to Arsenal's injury problems. Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Debuchy, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby are all long-term casualties, and the last thing Wenger needs going into the business end of the season are two more crocked stars.
At least Mesut Ozil, sidelined for three months before Christmas, remains in sparkling form, as does Theo Walcott, who missed almost all of 2014 with a knee injury. The pair combined for Arsenal's second goal of the night, the German's powerful long-range effort stinging the fingers of Leicester keeper Mark Schwarzer and Walcott smartly burying the rebound five minutes before the interval.
Ozil had also created the first goal, his corner landing at the feet of Laurent Koscielny who made no mistake from the edge of the six-yard box. But the Frenchman was part of an Arsenal back-four that at times struggled to contain the Leicester attack and Andrej Kramaric's second-half goal was nothing less than the visitors deserved, although the defeat leaves the Foxes rooted to the foot of the table.