Ozil the latest to succumb to Arsenal's systemic injury crisis
Arsenal's injury curse has struck again, and Mesut Ozil is the latest victim. The German Football Federation (DFB) has confirmed that he has suffered a partial tear of his lateral collateral ligament, and will miss between 10 and 12 weeks of action.
- Report: Arsenal's injury crisis: Who's out and for how long?
- Mangan: Optimism lingers after Gunners' slow start
- Report: Ozil out 10-12 weeks
Arsenal themselves have been quick to do some crisis management, insisting it is still too early to make an accurate prognosis. Gunners fans wearied by a seemingly endless succession of injury blows will find little cause for optimism in that statement. Supporters have learned the hard way that even when Arsenal declare a player will miss three weeks, it may well drag on for three months.
Steps have been taken to address the ongoing injury problems at the club. An extensive internal investigation has taken place to attempt to uncover the root cause. Fitness guru Shad Forsythe was recruited to join the medical staff, in part because of his existing relationship with the club's German contingent. However, it was never going to be a quick fix, and Arsenal's problems are still painfully prevalent: the Gunners have already lost Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Debuchy, Aaron Ramsey and now Ozil to significant injuries in 2014-15.
It seems this particular problem was sustained during the Chelsea match, which would go some way towards explaining Ozil's poor performance on the day. He has a history of playing on when carrying an injury; last season he turned in a similarly inept display against Bayern Munich in March, only for news to emerge that he had suffered a hamstring injury just two minutes into the game. He was withdrawn at half-time, and didn't return for more than a month. There's a certain irony that a player often derided for lack of physical bravery has twice picked up injuries by playing through the pain.
In one respect, Arsenal are fortunate: this injury comes in the one part of the park where manager Arsene Wenger is blessed with an abundance of options. As far as replacement playmakers go, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere are as good as it gets. Ozil's injury might even afford Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the chance to stake his claim for a spot in the centre.
That shouldn't allow Ozil's injury to be dressed up as a blessing in disguise. It's merely a manageable setback. Arsenal will undoubtedly miss their record signing. Despite his struggles to recapture his Real Madrid form, he remains a key creative presence in Wenger's team: no Arsenal player has forged more goal-scoring chances this season.
Against Aston Villa, there were signs of an emerging partnership between Ozil and Danny Welbeck. It was hoped that Ozil's penetrative passing and Welbeck's electric sprints could be the combination to fire Arsenal back into title contention. Their blossoming relationship is now on hold until the new year.
To an extent, Wenger is now forced to go back to the drawing board. Welbeck's arrival was part of a plan to build a new-look Arsenal team around Ozil. Wenger assembled a front line with pace and power in order to give his No. 11 the mobile options he needs to weave his magic. Wenger declined to re-sign Cesc Fabregas, unwilling to threaten Ozil's place as the imaginative fulcrum of his team. With Fabregas currently thriving at Stamford Bridge, one wonders whether Wenger is now ruing that particular decision.
Coming in the same week as a disheartening defeat against Chelsea, Ozil's injury is yet another blow to Arsenal morale. After some lavish spending in the summer, many Arsenal fans hoped this season would weave a different narrative. Instead, it has begun in a depressingly familiar manner. No signing -- not even that of Forsythe -- has enabled Arsenal to escape the injuries and inconsistency that threaten to become endemic.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.