Having to go to West Ham with an injury hit squad was bad enough but there’s bit of more bad news to make Wenger’s job even more difficult, with reports of a failed fitness test for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Ox was a noticeable absentee in the Arsenal team that overcame QPR on Boxing Day due to what is believed to be the recurrence of a groin strain sustained against Newcastle. He had limped off in the closing stages of that game but was good enough to play the majority of the game in Anfield.
However, the 21-year old apparently did suffer too much in that clash with Pardew’s men and looks set to miss a second successive game this season, something that has not happened.
A massive blow this must be to Wenger as it further limits the options available to him if the going probably gets tough on Sunday. The list of midfielders currently sidelined does not require mentioning as it’s already common knowledge but it remains costly the frequency of these injuries. It’s been an absurd trend where one returns and another immediately takes his place in the treatment room, Rosicky bearing the dubious honor for the Ox in this case.
Though there was nothing to cheer about in his game against Liverpool, the Ox has had a much more improved season, finally showing more than just flashes of the brilliance that led Wenger to pay heavy money to Southampton for his services in 2011. His deployment into central midfield has worked to very good effect in most games, especially as we’ve not had any of the regular midfielders to summon.
With Chambo’s injury and Olivier Giroud’s three match ban, Wenger will have two less star players to run the schedule over the coming weeks. Giroud’s absence will hurt more as he was providing us with variety in attack, his physicality and combination play being good weapons to draw other teammates into the action in the final third. Wenger faces a decision on whether to replace him with a similarly built but still raw striker in Sanogo, or with more technically adept ones like Podolski and Joel Campbell.
This already kind of gives us a peek into Wenger’s possible starting XI West Ham, as Rosicky would most likely retain his place in central midfield. His first League start of the season caused frenzy amongst Arsenal fans, and he showed his class with a commanding performance and a goal, not showing any wearing signs that you may expect to be associated with a 34-year old. We can expect more of his combinations with Alexis and Cazorla to yield more end product for us, while a possible return for Laurent Koscielny could also give us more belief going into the game.
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