17 Oct 2014

Arsene Wenger vows to find solution to Arsenal's injury crisis

An air of trepidation descends upon Arsenal at Annual General Meeting time.

Manager Arsene Wenger, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke and chief executive Ivan Gazidis all sat on the top table, perched like sitting ducks, waiting for one disgruntled shareholder or supporter to unleash his or her wrath.

However, but for one awkward question from an unhappy supporter asking Wenger why he failed to sign a new central defender during the summer transfer window, even Wenger’s biggest critics were far from vocal on Thursday.

Things, however, aren’t quite so serene at the club’s medical department back at their London Colney HQ.

Arsenal have nine first-team players unavailable for Saturday's clash against Hull City.

Wenger’s biggest concern is in defence, with Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Mathieu Debuchy (ankle) and Calum Chambers (suspended) all unavailable for the repeat of last year’s FA Cup final.

Virgil van Dijk is once again being tipped for a move to north London but any deal for the Celtic defender will have to wait until January.

Koscielny’s long-term fitness is a major concern. His injury is a long-standing problem which has deteriorated in recent weeks.
‘It has got worse, he finds it difficult to play with at the moment,’ said Wenger, who insisted the France international does not require surgery.

‘If you wait for it to be better, it can be a short time. If you want to get rid of it completely, it is long term. We will monitor him and as soon as he can take enough pain again he will play.’
The fear is Koscielny’s injury could manifest into a problem that could see him miss months rather than weeks, leaving Wenger with the dilemma of whether to hand Koscielny an extended break or continue playing him and risk aggravating the injury further.

Koscielny’s absence means Wenger is almost certain to use left back Nacho Monreal as a makeshift central defender alongside Per Mertesacker against Hull in a back four that could also consist of rookie right back Hector Bellerin and Kieran Gibbs.

Arsenal’s lack of central defensive options merely gave weight to shareholder Nigel Payne’s question about why Wenger failed to sign a new defender following the exit of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona.

Given the opportunity to answer Mr Payne’s query by chairman Sir Chips Keswick, the Arsenal manager declined, much to the fan’s anger.
‘That was a disgrace. I asked a question which every Arsenal fan I know feels so strongly about, which is why we went into this season with a very vulnerable defence,’ said Mr Payne.

‘I wanted to know if funds were available to strengthen the defence. The chairman said they always backed the manager. He offered Arsene Wenger the chance to respond and he didn’t.’
However, Wenger did explain how he plans to solve the club’s defender shortage in 2015.
Speaking at the start of the meeting, Wenger explained: ‘I agree we could have bought one more player but we didn’t find one.

‘But we will try in January to rectify that because we are a bit short because of the injuries we’ve had.’
Van Dijk is the leading candidate to fill the void.

Scouts have made regular checks on the former Holland Under 21 centre half, who was called into the senior squad for the first time last month, and Sportsmail understands the club failed in a £7million deadline-day attempt to land the 23-year-old.

The club, however, maintain an interest in Van Dijk and are primed to return for the Dutchman once the transfer window re-opens.

Hopefully, that will calm Mr Payne’s angst.

 

Credit: Sami Mokbel/SportsMail

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