Arsenal: Midfielder ruled out of United clash; Howe signs Wilshere's praises; Alexis assessment
Arsenal have been dealt a further injury blow in the build up to their trip to Manchester United on Saturday, with Santi Cazorla ruled out with an achilles problem. The injury has lingered for longer than expected and continues to trouble the Spanish playmaker, who had started the season in fine form. Cazorla’s compatriot Hector Bellerin is a certain absentee with an ankle ligament injury, as Arsene Wenger goes in search of his first league win at Old Trafford for a decade, and his first league win over Jose Mourinho. This new is not exactly a big shock for Arsenal’s staff, because the former Malaga midfielder has been struggling to recover for a few weeks.
Cazorla’s problem is very similar to the chronic Achilles trouble that plagued Xavi towards the end of his career, and is very difficult to shake off. There is not much you can do with the injury, aside from wait for the inflammation to go down. This can happen far quicker than expected, but can linger on for weeks without healing. Cazorla has been described by Wenger as Arsenal’s ‘technical guide’, and without him they have been held to frustrating home draws by Middlesbrough and Spurs. His lack of speed and athleticism means many remain sceptical about him as Arsenal’s first choice central midfielder, but it has been difficult to argue with his performances. However, on a big pitch at Old Trafford, this might not be the worst game for him to miss.
Elsewhere, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has been singing the praises of on loan Arsenal man Jack Wilshere, saying he has the ability to be anything he wants. Wilshere joined the south coast outfit on a season-long loan in August, and has got this far in the season without another injury. He is also back in the England squad, which appears to be his primary motivation in seeking a move in the first place. A successful return to the Emirates is not out of the question, but his priorities appear to lie elsewhere at present. Howe said:
“The thing for us was to get Jack to enjoy his work, his training, try to get his mind off everything that goes around that – he’s under a lot of pressure, he’s under the microscope with everything he does.
“The better place Jack is in physically and mentally, the better place our team is going to be in because he can be a real difference-maker for us.
“I think he can achieve anything that he wants. He’s been hampered by serious injuries and when you’ve been out of football for two years, it’s a very difficult thing to pick up your highest level, so he’s building towards that and he’s improving every game.”
Finally, Arsenal’s medical staff will assess Alexis Sanchez today when he returns from international duty. The former Barcelona forward scored twice in Chile’s 3-1 win over Uruguay, despite playing with heavy strapping on the upper half of his right leg. Wenger warned against making a ‘suicidal decision’ that risked aggravating the problem further, but Sanchez and Chile took the gamble for a vital qualifier. From their point of view it paid off, but the Gunners are clearly still concerned. They lost Sanchez for a considerable chunk of the season this time last year to a hamstring injury and will want to avoid a repeat this term.
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