Arsenal’s injury crisis deepens as Champions League tie against Dinamo Zagreb beckons

West Brom 2 Arsenal 1

Arsenal’s injury crisis deepens as Champions League tie against Dinamo Zagreb beckons

The latest bad news for Arsenal’s manager is that Aaron Ramsey will be unavailable for tomorrow’s crucial Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb.

Ramsey had looked on course to return after more than a month out with a hamstring problem, but will now not be ready in time.

This has not been a good few days for Arsenal’s season, as Wenger lost midfielders  to injury during a surprising — and utterly avoidable — defeat at West Brom on Saturday.

Coquelin left the Hawthorns on crutches with a knee problem, Arteta aggravated a calf injury.

“Honestly I don’t know. I have to wait, maybe Monday, to see how big the damage is,” said Wenger about Coquelin

That came after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered a setback in his recovery from a calf problem, and on top of injuries to Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck.

Arsenal must beat Zagreb tomorrow to stand any chance of staying in this season’s Champions League, but the manager’s attacking options are few.

“It’s difficult, I believe, to have players who will come back for Tuesday night,” Wenger said. “I can rotate a little bit maybe inside the squad. But Ramsey will be short and Chamberlain will be short, and they are the two closest.”

It means Wenger must rely once again on Alexis Sanchez, a player he is desperate to rest. Sanchez had to play 90 minutes on Saturday just 36 hours after returning from an exhausting international schedule with Chile.

It is to his credit that he was Arsenal’s best player on Saturday, despite the strains of two full matches for his country and a long-haul flight back from South America.

“I cannot afford to rest Alexis,” Wenger said. “At the moment, I don’t have much room to rest anybody.

“I don’t know where he gets the energy from. He is a competitor. When you are a competitor, you give everything to win.”

Yet despite everything Sanchez gave, Arsenal still lost, thanks to defensive indiscipline and a remarkable profligacy in front of goal. When the Chile forward was dragged down by Chris Brunt with seven minutes to play, Wenger’s side should have at least salvaged a point.

Instead, Santi Cazorla slipped as he took the resulting penalty, sending the ball sailing over the bar.

Arsenal would have gone top of the Premier League had they won.

Instead, they slipped to fourth. For much of October, it seemed as though Wenger was ready to put any talk of a crisis behind him.

Embarrassing defeats against Sheffield Wednesday, in the Capital One Cup, and Bayern Munich, in the Champions League, renewed the sense of disquiet.

Tony Pulis, a manager who has caused Wenger’s teams many problems down the years, added to those difficulties at the weekend.

James McClean can take a great deal of credit for that.

The Republic of Ireland international, playing on the left wing, was outstanding, giving Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin a difficult afternoon. It was McClean who set up West Brom’s first-half winner, beating Bellerin for pace in a run to the bye-line, before driving in a cross that Arteta turned into his own net via his hand and his thigh.

“James was outstanding,” Pulis said. “We thought he’d have a struggle against Bellerin because of his pace. But James has run him three or four times. He’s been superb.

“We’d love to have one or two more like him.”

Before Arteta’s comical own goal, Arsenal had led; Olivier Giroud was left unmarked to glance in Mesut Ozil’s free-kick.

The defending was poor, just as it was at the other end when James Morrison got in behind Bellerin to volley in Brunt’s free-kick via his shin.

Wenger made clear that there had been no doubts in his mind about playing Giroud or Laurent Koscielny, who had both been playing for France 10 days ago when they were caught up in the Paris attacks that left 129 people dead.

Wenger had himself been in the French capital at the time, although was not at the Stade de France when three attackers blew themselves up nearby during an international friendly against Germany.

“Sometimes, being in a competition helps you to focus on something else, rather than sitting and thinking about sadness,” Wenger said.

His focus is firmly on restoring Arsenal’s domestic credentials, and on keeping them in the Champions League. He has Pulis’s support to succeed in those aims.

“They’re a very good side,” said West Brom’s manager. “This year, they’ve got as good a chance as they’ve had for 10 years to win the title.”

WEST BROM (4-2-3-1): Myhill 6; Dawson 7, Olsson 6, Evans 7, Brunt 6; Yacob 7, Fletcher 6; Morrison 7 (Lambert 77, 6), Sessegnon 6 (Gardner 61, 6), McClean 8; Rondon 5 (Berahino 68, 5).

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Chester, McManaman, Anichebe.

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Cech 6; Bellerin 5, Mertesacker 5, Koscielny 5, Monreal 5; Coquelin 6 (Arteta 14, 4, Flamini 48, 5), Cazorla 5; Sanchez 7, Ozil 6, Gibbs 6 (Campbell 63, 4); Giroud 6.

Subs not used: Ospina, Gabriel, Debuchy, Adelaide.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Demands on young players ‘not sustainable’

The head of athletic development at Arsenal’s youth academy has said that physical demands on many young Irish players are not sustainable.

Speaking at the weekend ‘Developing & Maximising Youth Potential’ conference at the LIT/Setanta College Sportslab in Thurles, Des Ryan said that every single club, GAA or otherwise, in the country should appoint a strength and conditioning coach to address the ‘workload issue’.

Ryan, a former S&C coach with Connacht Rugby said: “Between school, club and, in some young GAA players’ cases, county, the workload for many players is not sustainable as every manager wants 100%.

“Every club should invest in a strength and conditioner and he should have a meeting with the player and outline what’s good and what’s not. The player, together with his parents and coaches, then can make an informed decision based on what he or she can do, not what is wanted of him or her.”

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