Arsenal has confirmed that Santi Cazorla will miss a minimum of three months, according to Marcus Christenson of the Guardian.
The news was expected after reports yesterday indicated Cazorla’s injury was to ligaments in his knee. The injury further depletes Arsene Wenger’s midfield choices.
With Cazorla and Francis Coquelin out until March, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky out until February, and Mikel Arteta out three to four weeks, that leaves Aaron Ramsey, Mathieu Flamini, and Mesut Özil as Arsenal’s only healthy central midfielders.
A long-term injury to Danny Welbeck, and short-term injuries to Alexis and Theo Walcott further damage Arsenal’s attacking wide options. A position that’s shallow depth is exacerbated by the number of injured central players, some of whom can also play out wide.
Although much attention has been placed on Arsenal’s history of injuries, they are still not the most injured team in the Premier League. That honor falls to Manchester City. What is concerning about Arsenal’s injuries is how quickly they are piling up.
They hypothesize that because Arsenal sustains injuries in a flurry, players are rushed back to fitness to replace newly injured players too quickly. But because they are rushed back to fitness too quickly, they are soon injured again. Once they are injured, the player they replaced, who is also rushed back to the squad too quickly, replaces them. That player is then injured and Arsenal finds themselves in a cycle of injuries caused by injured players.
With Arsenal missing more players at one time than they have all season, more pressure will be placed on certain youngsters to impress in central and wide midfield positions.
Kieran Gibbs and Joel Campbell are both squad players who will feature prominently off the bench or in the starting eleven in wide positions. Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide, who can also play as the number 10, will be the youngsters providing cover out wide. Both will see time on the bench, and at least one of them will likely get some first-team minutes.
Calum Chambers will be the primary back up to Flamini and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will step in from a starting wide position if either Özil or Ramsey are hurt or need a rest. Daniel Crowley, Krystian Bielik, Glen Kamara, and Ismael Bennacer will all be waiting in the wings or on the bench in case another first team central midfielder is out for an extended period of time.
Besides Reine-Adelaide and Iwobi, in short flashes, none of these youngsters have shown they are ready to face the rigors of the Premier League or Champions League.
While the youngsters sort out their feet, the Gunners can only hope that short term injured players like Walcott, Arteta, and Alexis can find their feet sooner than later.
Walcott could find himself on the bench over the weekend. His return should allow Olivier Giroud some rest and he could serve as an attacking threat on the wing in Alexis’ three or four week absence. However, Walcott is not yet fit and bringing him into the squad too soon takes us back to the catch-22 that Arsenal find their selves in.
Alexis has been granted a week’s vacation in Chile and a return against Manchester City on December 21st has been penciled in as a possible return date. Again, bringing Alexis back too soon could only cause further damage.
Arteta sustained a recurring calf injury that will supposedly keep him out a few weeks, but his recent injury history tells us otherwise.
Over the next month, one or two of the youngsters could step up in the absence of the nine injured senior players. If this does happen, it could allow Arsenal’s injured players to properly recover.
Wenger has never been shy of giving youngsters a chance when he feels they are ready, and if one them steps up, he will be given the opportunity to impress.
The only way Arsenal can control their injury crisis is by getting out of their catch-22.