Another game, another injury scare. These are becoming the norm around the Emirates this season, and today was no exception. Speaking ahead of the away game against Stoke City, manager Arsene Wenger revealed the team news for the upcoming week.
The top news is that Nacho Monreal has been ruled out of tomorrow’s game. The left back appeared to pick up a knock early on in the game against West Brom and was promptly substituted, but was played for the entire game against Southampton midweek. This appears to have aggravated his injury and Wenger confirmed that the Spaniard would be unavailable. His replacement, Kieran Gibbs, is also a doubt; he too picked up a knock against West Brom and will be tested ahead of the game tomorrow to determine whether he is fit to play. Wenger is optimistic that the Englishman will feature however.
We have to assess a few players today because we had some bad surprises with Nacho Monreal being out for tomorrow’s game. Hopefully Kieran Gibbs will be available and back in the team. We have to assess some other players like Laurent Koscielny and a few bumps and bruises that we got after the game. I’ll make that decision after today. We might also lose Tomas Rosicky for a thigh problem and Yaya Sanogo for a calf problem.
Rosicky and Sanogo are also sidelined, and though we can afford to let them sit out one game, the Koscielny story is much more serious. The Frenchman, who was sidelined for over a month with acute tendonitis, only recently made his return and might not be fully fit yet. But we cannot afford to lose him, especially with the crisis at the left back position. Our defence has just managed to string a couple of good performances together and this spate of injuries might reverse all that.
I would like him [Koscielny] to play a third [game after coming back from injury] because he is a very important player in our squad, and ideally he will be available tomorrow. That decision will only be made tomorrow morning.
On to more positive news, keeper Wojciech Szczesny is all set to resume full training today following his injury in the game against Manchester United. While it is good to have the Pole back, even if he is fully fit it might be better to let him sit on the bench for tomorrow. Replacement keeper Emiliano Martinez is on a hot streak, notching up three clean sheets in a row, and I believe we should let him continue for a couple of games more.
Szczesny will be back today in full training. I don’t know if he will be completely available or not yet. Debuchy is also back in training but it’s too early for him. The earliest he could be available is maybe on Tuesday. I don’t know whether I will take him yet because we are short number wise.
The return of Debuchy is also good news, the experienced Frenchman will provide cover at the right back position and allow Chambers to shift into a more central role if required. However, given that he is coming back from a long term injury, we realistically cannot expect him to be match fit until next weekend at least.
Finally, the manager had some news regarding long term absentee Theo Walcott. The winger, who just last month resumed training following a nine month spell on the sidelines due to an ACL injury, has been ruled out for the next couple of games.
Walcott made his return in an Under 21 game, and was also used as a substitute in the Premier League game against Burnley. However, when he travelled for international duty with the English national side he picked up a groin injury during training that has resulted in his latest absence.
Walcott is still struggling with his groin inflammation. I think he has an injection today to take care of that. Hopefully he can be available again after that. Galatasaray will be too early for him.
The injury angered many fans considering how long he had been missing and Wenger has now confirmed it has not gotten any better with Walcott to miss the next two games. Hopefully the stylish winger will be back soon.
So, to conclude, lots of defensive scares. The return of Debuchy is essential to allow some rotation in the back four. With all the injuries, tomorrow’s defense could become an extremely makeshift affair. Mertesacker and Chambers are guaranteed starters, but if the medical tests are not positive then they could be joined by Bellerin and Flamini. That should make for some exciting viewing, I suppose. Get set for another tense, nail biting finish.