Just when things started to look so bright for Arsenal’s title aspirations a dark cloud has appeared over the Emirates caused by a lengthening injury list.
Their trip to Swansea tomorrow is followed by a make-or-break Champions League match away at Bayern Munich on Wednesday and a North London derby against bitter rivals Spurs on Sunday.
The midweek cup defeat to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday proved costly for boss Arsene Wenger who saw both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott suffer injuries.
Both England internationals miss tomorrow’s match along with a long list of other key men that includes Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshire, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky.
It’s a repeated story for Arsenal and Wenger has hit back at criticism, saying: “I trust my medical staff to do well and my coaching staff to do the fitness planning very well. We have some players who are more injury-prone than others, but we are very well organised on that front.”
“We have to analyse every single case and every single exercise, but also I think you have to not over-analyse when players are injured.
“We have not too many muscular injuries but it is post-international games we get all these injuries and is it linked with that? I don’t know.”
The trip to Wales to face Swansea will be an ‘international’ of sorts and given the tests poised by the games against Bayern and Spurs Wenger will be desperate to return to London with no further additions to the injury list.
Big Match Stats
Football bettors will recall that Swansea managed the double over the Gunners last season – the first time since 1981-82 – and online football tipsters know they remain a dangerous foe despite a chequered run of form.
Victory against Villa last weekend ended a give game winless streak, but the Swans are still without a home win in the EPL since August, having drawn two and lost one.
With Arsenal they share the record for having hit the woodwork the most times this season – six occasions.
Arsenal have scored 1999 goals in all competitions under Wenger – and football bettors may be tempted to back a Frenchman to score the 2000th.
Olivier Giroud has netted in four of his last five games for the Gunners and Mesut Ozil could again be the provider given his seven assists this season – the highest in the EPL.
Arsenal currently sit joint top of the table on 22 points with Man City, having won four games in a row and six of their last seven.
Their away form has been particularly impressive with nine wins and just one defeat in their last 11 games away from the Emirates.
The run has fired their fans hopes for a first EPL title since 2004 but the pre-season criticism of Wenger’s failure to strengthen his squad beyond the addition of goalkeeper Petr Cech could come back to haunt the manager and derail a team that has looked like mounting a real challenge this season.
By: Joe Cahal