Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is facing his first injury crisis of the season, as the hectic festive fixture list has taken its toll on his battle-scarred squad.
Midfielders Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, along with lead striker Olivier Giroud, have been ruled out of the New Year’s Day game against Cardiff at the Emirates Stadium, with Wenger sweating on their fitness ahead of the FA Cup clash against North London rival Tottenham on Saturday.
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The Arsenal boss also has doubts over a host of other players, as he looks to rally his troops and prepare for two more important matches in quick succession.
Wenger had previously suggested the fixture list his side had been presented with over the Christmas period was ‘horrendous,’ with the move to shift the clash with Chelsea to Dec. 23 intensifying the cluster of fixtures for those two teams.
Now it seems as if playing three games in seven days -- and the two away matches that have added to the workload on his squad -- has taken its toll, as he is being forced to shuffle his pack for the visit of managerless Cardiff.
“Ramsey and Ozil are out,” confirmed Wenger at a news conference. “Ramsey is our for three weeks and Ozil has seen a specialist last night, I haven't got a report yet. We lost Gibbs at Newcastle with a calf strain. We have as well [Nacho] Monreal and [Thomas] Vermaelen, who are not sure to be ready because they come just back from illness, then we have uncertainty about [Thomas] Rosicky, [Jack] Wilshere and [Theo] Walcott.
“We lost Giroud on an ankle problem at Newcastle, so this morning will be more medical checks to see who will be available for tomorrow's game. Olivier is a strong structure and he recovers quite quickly. He thinks he will be all right for Saturday, but the medical people think he will be a bit short. He is quite optimistic about it.”
With the depth of his squad in danger of being exposed by the injury woes that have hit Arsenal in recent days, speculation will mount that Wenger will be tempted to splash the cash in the January transfer window -- especially in the striker position -- and he admitted that prospect is very real.
“I don't know if we will do something or not [in January], but it is not to replace Olivier Giroud, as we have a great confidence in Olivier Giroud,” he added. “We are like many clubs, we are certainly on alert if something special turns up we will not turn it down, but we are not as well desperate because we have a big depth in our squad.
“We have shown that because our midfield for example at West Ham and at Newcastle was completely different. We changed three players and we still managed to have a very strong team.”