Arsene Wenger has declared that Theo Walcott’s long-term future is healthy following surgery on his knee injury, but insisted that he has no chance of making the World Cup.
After being carried off Arsenal’s FA Cup third-round tie with rivals Tottenham Hotspur, initial tests revealed that the winger had suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament, with an initial prognosis of a six-month recovery period. Some, citing examples of other players who have made speedy recoveries from similar injuries, had raised the prospect of the 24-year-old being fit to head off to Brazil with England in five months’ time. Yet, while upbeat, Wenger says that is not an option.
“It went very well. The damage was real in the knee so he will have to take the needed time, so let’s not be hopeful that he will go to the World Cup -- that is not possible,” he said, according to Arsenal’s official website. “But overall his long-term future is very positive. It's about being fit for next season now.”
In the immediate future, Arsenal are facing something of an injury crisis ahead of the visit of Fulham to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Tomas Rosicky and Nacho Monreal were forced off in the second half of the Gunners’ 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Monday that took them back to the Premier League summit, and Wenger sounded less than optimistic about either returning this weekend.
“Monreal looks a doubt for Saturday, a big doubt, because he twisted his foot on the kick,” he explained. “It is not the bruise, he turned and twisted the ligament. Rosicky had surgery with a general anesthetic for a broken nose in two places. With a mask he may be available, but we have to monitor it closely.”
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Wenger will have little choice about his midfield lineup, with Aaron Ramsey still not fit to return from a thigh injury suffered on Boxing Day and Mikel Arteta remaining on the sidelines due to a calf problem. Indeed, Wenger believes that both will also be absent for the FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Coventry City next weekend. That will necessitate Mathieu Flamini and Jack Wilshere continuing to occupy the two central midfield berths, as they did at Villa Park.
Further forward, Wenger is likely to have a choice between three of Mesut Ozil, Serge Gnabry, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski. The Germany forward is also the only current alternative to Olivier Giroud up front. Along with Walcott’s injury and with Yaya Sanogo not yet fit for a return, Nicklas Bendtner is still troubled by an ankle injury and only has an outside chance of making the Coventry match. Wenger’s selection in defense is also straightforward. Club captain Thomas Vermaelen is out for about two more weeks with a knee injury.
Arsenal currently sit a point clear of Manchester City in the Premier League and two ahead of Chelsea as they look to end their 10-year wait to reclaim the Premier League title. Also still going strong in the FA Cup and Champions League, there has been much speculation that Wenger will look to add to his squad in the January transfer window.