They may be on top of the Premier League, but Arsenal’s New Year celebrations have been tempered by a long list of injuries ahead of the visit of Cardiff City. Manager Arsene Wenger ran through the names of those either ruled out or doubtful for the New Year’s Day clash, in a manner that suggested the club’s physio room has seen more activity than the training pitch in recent days.
“Starting of course first with [Aaron] Ramsey and [Mesut] Ozil who are out, and we lost [Kieran] Gibbs at Newcastle with a calf strain,” he said in his pre-match press conference, according to Arsenal’s official website. “We have as well [Nacho] Monreal and [Thomas] Vermaelen who are not certain to be ready because they have come just back from illness, then we have uncertainty about [Tomas] Rosicky, [Jack] Wilshere, [Theo] Walcott. We lost [Olivier] Giroud to an ankle problem at Newcastle so this morning will be more medical checks to see who will be available for the game.”
Ramsey’s superb start to the season has been halted by a thigh strain picked up in the victory over West Ham and Wenger confirmed that the Welsh midfielder will miss another three weeks. Ozil is suffering from a shoulder injury and the club’s record signing has seen a specialist, with the full extent of the problem set to be known imminently.
Walcott also has a shoulder complaint and, together with Rosicky (calf) and Wilshere (ankle), faced a fitness test on Tuesday.
The festive period was always liable to prove the biggest test for an Arsenal squad that does not have the same strength in depth of some of their rivals for the Premier League title. Arsenal are particularly thin on the ground up front and Wenger was quick to play down fears that Giroud could be out for any considerable length of time.
"Olivier is a strong structure and he recovers quite quickly," he said, according to The Guardian. "He thinks he will be all right for Saturday, but the medical people think he will be a bit short. He is quite optimistic about it."
Still, his unavailability for the match against Cardiff could strengthen the belief that Arsenal need to add a striker to their ranks in the January transfer window. For the time being, Wenger will likely replace Giroud with either Nicklas Bendtner, who came on for the French striker against Newcastle United, or Lukas Podolski, who returned to action after a long injury absence with a goal-scoring cameo against West Ham on Boxing Day.
Some good news on the injury front comes in the form of Wenger’s confirmation that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would begin full training next week. The England international midfielder has been out since suffering a knee injury on the opening day of the Premier League season against Aston Villa.