Huge blow for Wenger as Diaby ruled out for nine months
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has been dealt a major blow after Abou Diaby was ruled out for nine months.
The midfielder injured his left knee in training on Wednesday and scans have revealed that he has torn the anterior cruciate ligament, meaning he needs surgery and will be sidelined for the rest of the year.
Wenger had been resisting the temptation to rush Jack Wilshere back into action despite a mounting shortage of midfielders at the club.
But the Diaby setback leaves the Gunners with just Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin available for the central midfield berths.
Wilshere – who made his comeback in October after 17 months out injured – has not played since sustaining a badly bruised ankle in the 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on March 3 and missed both of England's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.
Despite his absence, Arsenal have beaten Bayern Munich and Swansea City away in their only two fixtures since then and have moved within four points of their north London rivals Tottenham, with a game in hand, as they chase fourth place and Champions League qualification for a 16th successive season.
Yet with Diaby now sidelined having played alongside Arteta against Swansea a fortnight ago, and Theo Walcott also absent for tomorrow's meeting with Reading at the Emirates after picking up an injury on England duty, Wenger is taking a cautious approach with Wilshere due to concerns over his long-term future.
"We deferred a little bit his rehab by one week. We gave him one more week's rest because it was wise medically to do it," he said. "It was an inflammation of his bone and we had such history with him (that) we are a bit more cautious than we would be with you or with me."
Walcott is expected to be in contention for next week's visit to West Bromwich Albion after pulling out of the England squad with a groin injury.
He has failed to score in his last five appearances but Wenger was adamant that signing a new three-and-half-year contract worth £100,000 a week in January has had nothing to do with his dip in form.
"I don't believe that. If he didn't play well and had not signed a contract, then people would say the opposite," he said.
"I don't think that is linked especially with the fact that he has signed a contract or not. Because you can say as well he is more secure, he can express himself.
"I don't see any difference in attitude in training. He is a guy who loves football, who stays after training, works on his finishing.
"He was just a bit less decisive. He needs that fraction of a second to make the difference. He needs his pace." (© Independent News Service)