SANCHEZ ADDS TO ARSENAL’S INJURY WOES
Sanchez adds to Arsenal’s injury woes. After 40 minutes of Arsenal’s encounter with Norwich City at Carrow Road on Sunday, only one outcome looked likely.
The Gunners were utterly dominant and barely allowed their opponents out of their own half for most of the first period, with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil – the duo who combined for the opening goal, created by the Chilean and scored by the German – looking particularly dangerous whenever they picked up the ball.
Norwich, though, got themselves back into the match just before the interval, Lewis Grabban finishing neatly from inside the box to level the scores. The hosts were probably the better team after the break too, creating some good chances and forcing a fantastic save from Petr Cech in the Arsenal goal.
The visitors’ performance was strangely flat in the second half, a possible consequence of their current injury woes. Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Francis Coquelin, Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck were already ruled out pre-game, but things got even worse as events unfolded at Carrow Road, with Sanchez, Laurent Koscielny and Santi Cazorla all picking up injuries to add to Arsene Wenger’s headache.
It was the pulled hamstring suffered by Sanchez that drew most of the headlines, with Wenger condemned for failing to rest the former Barcelona man in recent weeks despite openly acknowledging that he was worried by how “exhausted” the 26-year-old was.
The criticism has been fair. Wenger knew that he was taking a huge gamble with one of his best players, and will now have to get by without him for up to three weeks. It is something that Arsenal clearly could have done without heading into the busiest period of the domestic calendar – not to mention a make-or-break Champions League tie with Olympiacos next Wednesday.
The suggestion that the Gunners’ title bid is over as a result of the injury crisis is extremely premature, however. Despite failing to defeat relegation-battling Norwich, Arsenal remain two points behind Manchester City and Leicester City at the top of the Premier League. While it is true that they are missing key players, their fixtures in the coming weeks are generally kind: Manuel Pellegrini’s City side are the only top-eight opponents they face in their next six outings, with clashes with bottom-four outfits Bournemouth, Sunderland, Aston Villa and Newcastle United giving Arsenal an excellent chance to sit at the summit of standings early in the new year.
“We have to go through that spell,” Wenger told reporters in his post-match press conference. “We’ve had a bad spell of three games where we took only two points, but we’re still not far and that’s al lright. It’s not enough, but we have an opportunity to come back.
“It was a difficult game. Norwich were focused and at a top level physically; we play every time with 10 players in their own half and we were not incisive enough to break through.
“Maybe the turning point was at 1-0 up [when] we allowed ourselves to drop a little and let them back into the game.
“We had to dig deep to get through the second half, we were a little jaded. I would say it was a fair point for Norwich but, on the injury front, it was a bad game for us.”
That last part cannot be denied, and Arsenal fans are right to be concerned with the regularity with which their players seem to suffer setbacks. It is excessively hasty, however, to rule Wenger’s side out of the title reckoning.