Sunday 18 February 2018

Arsenal double blow as Thomas Vermaelen ruled out and Laurent Koscielny loses appeal

Facing surgery: Thomas Vermaelen. Photo: Getty Images
Facing surgery: Thomas Vermaelen. Photo: Getty Images

Jeremy Wilson

Arsenal suffered a double blow on Tuesday when Thomas Vermaelen endured yet another injury setback and Laurent Koscielny lost his appeal against his sending off.

It leaves Arsene Wenger with only two available senior centre-backs in Johan Djourou and Sebastien Squillaci for the difficult away games over the next five days, against Wolves on Wednesday and Everton on Sunday. Arsenal go into those matches off the back of consecutive defeats.

Wenger also made the surprise admission that he may change the team's renowned passing style to include more long balls.

Of particular concern has been the recent home form, with West Bromwich, Birmingham, West Ham and Newcastle all frustrating Arsenal for long periods by defending deeply. Wenger is renowned for an unshakeable commitment to his football ideals but, in Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner, he know that he has forwards who can provide more variation.

"In the last four home games we have not absolutely made a demonstration of football," said Wenger. "We might find a way to play a bit more direct in some situations because everybody drops deep against us and as soon as you make a mistake it becomes even harder.

"On Sunday [against Newcastle] we didn't create enough. We looked at some stage that we could play for a while without scoring a goal and that is of course a worry."

While it had been expected that Koscielny's appeal against his two-match ban would be dismissed on Tuesday, the news about Vermaelen increases fears that he may need surgery on his injured Achilles.

When Vermaelen first suffered the injury while playing for Belgium at the beginning of September, it was hoped that he would fully recover within a week.

On Friday, Wenger said that Vermaelen would return within "days" but on Tuesday he delivered a far more worrying prognosis. "He had a little setback in training [on Monday] and he has to see specialists again. I don't know where we go with Thomas Vermaelen time-wise but at the moment he cannot play. On the scan his Achilles is completely clear, but as soon as he stays out playing or training for a while, it tightens up and he has pain. We don't know the source of his pain."

There is also concern that midfielder Abou Diaby may need an ankle operation, although he will have further tests over the next 48 hours to determine whether he needs to see another specialist.

On a more positive note, Wenger is confident that Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie are both nearing full match fitness following respective hamstring and ankle injuries.

"The injury has taken a lot out of Cesc mentally and I believe that the fact he came through well against Newcastle you will see a different player," said Wenger.

Although deeply frustrated by Arsenal's wasted opportunity against Newcastle on Sunday, Wenger remains confident that there will be further opportunities to close the five-point gap to Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.

"The demands on the teams in Europe are very high and the level of the less prestigious teams in the Premier League has gone up so I believe everybody will drop points," said Wenger.

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