There were a couple of rumours circulating that Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini had been injured on international duty and they have unfortunately been confirmed by Arsene Wenger. The Arsenal manager is expecting to be without Hleb for three weeks with a hamstring strain whilst Flamini will be out for a week.
The pair are joined by Abou Diaby, Cesc Fabregas and Gilberto Silva on the unavailable list for a variety of reasons. And whilst Philippe Senderos has been made available news that Robin van Persie would play some part against Wigan proved immature as Wenger confirmed he will be out for a little while longer yet.
“Hleb came back with a hamstring injury. I think he’ll be out for 21 days. Flamini came back with a little thigh problem too. That will be one week maximum. Senderos is available but Cesc is suspended. Diaby has a back problem from the Slavia Prague game and he’ll be out for three weeks. Robin van Persie is not back and he will not be back for Sevilla either. Gilberto will return very, very late.”
The injuries and unavailabilities will test Arsenal’s depth more than they have be tested thus far this season, but will also give some opportunities for the fringe players to stake their claim for a permanent starting position. With four central midfielders out, Lassana Diarra and Denilson should take up the two central positions against Wigan and I’m sure both will be chomping at the bit to show Wenger what they can do. The same could be said of Eduardo da Silva, who should return from a fine international performance for Croatia midweek to partner Emmanuel Adebayor on Saturday afternoon.
Thankfully, the back five are all still fit (the longer this happens, the longer Arsenal will stay unbeaten) so there really shouldn’t be any cause for concern about the boys getting the desired result against Wigan. I’m quite looking forward to seeing how a couple of the fringe players go, especially Diarra as I’m yet to see him play a full 90 minutes for Arsenal or France.
Gallas enjoying himself
It will also be interesting to see how the team responds to the mini-crisis as a lot of opposition supporters’ belief that Arsenal will not win the title is based around the assumption that they will crumble when they get hit with injuries to a number of key players. You can’t get more ‘key’ than Fabregas, van Persie and Hleb and if Wenger’s side can get a win without those three then it will go some way to showing the rest of the league the depth that this squad possesses. One player who could definitely be grouped with those three as a key player is William Gallas, and he spoke a little bit about how much he is enjoying his role as captain of Arsenal.
“Before, I used to keep to myself. But I like those new responsibilities. I really have fun with the talks I have with Arsene Wenger.”
I’ll bet he does. Although he was a controversial choice at the time, Gallas is proving to be quite a hit as Arsenal captain. He seems to be the right blend for a captain, playful and energetic enough to promote the message that the guys in the squad should enjoy playing football, but also serious enough to make the others stand up and listen when required. It’s interesting to think that Arsenal made £5 million from the trade of Ashley Cole to Chelsea given the contrasting impacts the pair have made at their respective clubs since. One has gone on to captain their club and the other has been nothing but a disappointment; long may it continue that way.
Just going back to Arsenal-Wigan, I’m actually predicting Wenger’s side to come through this one without too many problems. I’ll be very interested to see how Diarra and Eduardo perform should they start, but I do feel that Adebayor will be the key player in this one, just as he was against Reading a little over a week ago. Wigan are struggling at the moment and I really think that things are only going to get worse. Arsenal 2-0 Wigan.
What do you think?
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