Wenger concedes Bendtner ankle injury makes forward options “difficult”

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With first choice striker Olivier Giroud already shelved with an ankle problem, Arsenal’s been dealt another injury blow at striker, with Nicklas Bendtner ruled out for “weeks” after picking up his own ankle injury on Wednesday.

Bendtner came off the bench to score the game-winning goal on Wednesday in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over visiting Cardiff, the first game this season Giroud had failed to start. Lukas Podolski, recently returned from his own long-term injury, got the call at striker only to give way in the second half to Bendtner, who broke a 0-0 tie in the 88th with his second goal of the season.

[MORE: Arsenal 2-0 Cardiff City: Dominant Gunners break through late (video)]

With the Denmark international out, however, the squad’s lack of striker options will be further exposed, with manager Arsène Wenger conceding a depth chart of Podolski and Theo Walcott is insufficient.

“It shows we are short,” Wenger said of Bendtner’s injury, speaking to the media after Wednesday’ match at the Emirates.

As reported by the BBC:

“He [Bendtner] sprained his ankle, [for] how long we don’t know but it looks weeks.

“We have Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott who can play striker but over the longer period we want more specialists to play through the middle.

“With two players injured it is difficult. Don’t be too quick at the moment, we will just say we have two center forwards injured.”

While Podoloski and Walcott can play through the middle, each have spent most of their time at Arsenal playing from wide positions. Walcott is Wenger’s starter on the right side of the team’s 4-2-3-1 formation, while Podolski’s most common position since joining Arsenal in the summer of 2012 has been left wing.

Summer signing Yaya Sanogo and 18-year-old Chuba Akpom have also made league appearances this season, the duo combining for nine official minutes in two calls from the bench. Neither player regularly dresses for Arsenal, who are said to be looking to acquire a forward in the January transfer window.

As far as the immediate future is concerned, the BBC describes Giroud as a “serious doubt” for this weekend’s FA Cup third round tie with Tottenham, leaving him and Bendtner to join Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Kieran Gibbs as likely absences. Combined, the injured players have accounted for 22 of the Gunners 39 league goals, with Giroud and Ramsey tied for the club-lead with eight.

Arsenal’s next league match is Monday, Jan. 13 at Aston Villa, a team that defeated the Gunners 3-1 to open the Premier League season.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.