The list of players already in the Arsenal treatment room is good enough to compose a whole team, and it appears they will even have the luxury of substitutes, with fresh reports of another midfield star, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the latest to be crocked.
The Ox started the last three games between Stoke and Galatasaray, as he continues to enjoy a season where he has had more influence in the team than ever before.
With Ramsey, Arteta and Wilshere all out, the 21-year old has been drafted into central midfield by Wenger, a role in which he has looked quite handy and dangerous in attack, even attracting the singular praise of Newcastle manager Alan Pardew after his display against Newcastle.
That game, though, didn’t end without the ‘customary’ injury to an Arsenal player, as the Ox had to be subbed off in the latter stages for what appeared to be a groin strain. Wenger, who must be so frustrated with his inability to disinfect the bug that is eating deep into his team, has bemoaned the lateness in substituting him in the game, though the extent of the situation is yet to be fully ascertained.
“I wanted to take him off and then, he takes the ball and crosses the whole pitch and cannot run anymore,” Wenger said, as quoted by the Telegraph.
“We cannot afford to lose him at the moment. He’s got a pain in his groin. I took him to Galatasaray and maybe two games was a lot for him.”
Those two games have seen the Ox deployed in a midfield role and he has done just more than impress. With pace and energy to burn, the Ox has shown very encouraging glimpses to justify Wenger’s claims in the past that his long-term future would be in a midfield position. Now that we are so down in numbers that the skeleton is bare, it will be a bitter blow to add him to the list of sidelined players, especially as his attributes will be perfectly suited to the prosecution of the game against Liverpool next week. The other midfielders brought on as substitutes – the recalled Francis Coquelin and 17-year old Ainsley Maitland-Niles – do not appear to have the stuff of first team players and would leave us short still.
While he hopes on the recovery of the Ox, Wenger has chosen to take further precaution on the other players, by handing everyone a three-day holiday for Christmas, before the team regroups on Wednesday to prepare for the trip to Anfield.
On the importance of the break, the manager stressed the need to let the players have a breather at this moment considering the number of games we’ve had to play over the past few weeks. There will also not be the issue of the break being counter-productive due to jet-lag from travelling, as the majority are expected to remain in England with their families.
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