“He will have surgery in the near future and is expected to be out for at least six months, thus missing the rest of the season and the World Cup.”
The news is always hard to hear, but in a World Cup even non-Gooners can feel for the youngster. Walcott missed two months with an abdominal injury, but on the season had started 13 of his 14 matches, with five goals coming in his last five appearances. That includes braces against West Ham and Manchester City.
This is a serious blow to Arsenal’s title hopes, as even Gunner players like Mikel Arteta have lamented the club’s attacking options. Walcott was hurt battling for possession with Tottenham defender Danny Rose in Arsenal’s 2-0 derby win over Spurs in the FA Cup’s third round this weekend.
Walcott’s pace has always been a major part of his game, but his all-around form was becoming more dangerous in recent weeks. His free kick toward goal that Olivier Giroud headed in to beat Newcastle before the New Year was a brilliant piece of football.
Those looking for a smile despite the harsh news could probably find it in Subbuteo Art’s recreation of Walcott’s now infamous “2-0” gesture to visiting Spurs fans after his injury.
Argentine striker Carlos Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua last month in a deal worth $40 million over two years.
“The danger (is) that the Chinese offers become the benchmark for Europe,” Wenger said Thursday. “You cannot compete with that, but I still think that, when you’re a footballer, the first thing is that you want to play against the best players in the best teams.”
Wenger said players that want the best compensation for playing in the best quality league need not look to Asia.
“I think that combination is the best in England at the moment, so I don’t see why the players should leave the English Premier League,” Wenger said.
Wenger, whose team is fourth in the standings, has made only one signing in the January transfer window, picking up defender Cohen Bramall from non-league club Hednesford.
Arsenal has also decided to keep captain Per Mertesacker for another season. Wenger announced Thursday that the club has taken up a one-year option to extend the contract of the 32-year-old German, who has not played this season because of a knee injury sustained during a friendly in July.
Mertesacker faces a fight to get back into the team because Shkodran Mustafi, an offseason signing from Valencia, has built a strong partrnership with vice captain Laurent Koscielny at the heart of Wenger’s defense.
Top 5 Premier League Story Lines ahead of Matchday 22
Down in the relegation zone, however, is another story. Tough matches await the four lowest sides, with three sides on the road and a fourth hosting Everton.
All that and more, below.
Make or break at the Etihad Stadium?
Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC
If 10 points back of Chelsea isn’t enough for Man City boss Pep Guardiola to concede the PL title — and it shouldn’t be — 13 could do the trick. And Spurs’ seven point gap would feel dire should it dip to 10.
With the Blues expected to handle Hull City at Stamford Bridge, both Spurs and City are facing extreme damage to their title hopes when the London club looks to complete a season sweep of Guardiola’s side.
Time has proven that electric talent doesn’t mandate instant success in the Premier League, but many eyes will be trained on Gabriel Jesusshould he debut for City. The Brazilian wonderkid has already made an impact in the Olympics, World Cup qualifying, and the Brazilian top-flight. The PL is next on his list.
Relegation candidates sweating bullets
Liverpool vs. Swansea City — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN
Crystal Palace vs. Everton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on CNBC
West Brom vs. Sunderland — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on Premier League ExtraTime
Chelsea vs. Hull City — Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN
It’s getting to be that time of year, when being more than three points above the drop zone feels like the freshest possible air.
No one in this batch of four knows that feeling well at all.
Crystal Palace and Hull City are level with 16 points, one ahead of Sunderland and Swansea City. Only the Black Cats will truly fancy their chances at a win this weekend.
That said, Hull supporters will feel confidence anew after a couple of transfer buys and a healthy Abel Hernandez joined new manager Marco Silva at the KC. A win over Bournemouth will buoy their confidence, but a trip to Chelsea is a tall task.
Right about now Palace fans are putting their hopes in goal differential and weak fellow relegation candidates rather than “never been dropped” Sam Allardyce. Their goal-leaking side welcomes an Everton side that hung four on Man City.
Sunderland simply needs to find a way to break down Tony Pulis‘ Baggies at the Hawthorns. Given the chance to put heat on the three other candidates, a win would serve much more than a few moments outside the drop zone.
Gunners need to avoid pitfall
Arsenal vs. Burnley — Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN
The first of two home matches against middle or lower table sides, Arsenal needs all three points against Sean Dyche‘s cagey and well-oiled Clarets. They sit in the top half of the table, and would relish added a big-name to its list of defeated PL sides.
Simply put, Arsenal’s title hopes rest as much on the points it needs to claim as massive encounters like Feb. 4’s trip to Chelsea.
Mourinho’s Red Devils go for 17
Stoke City vs. Manchester United— Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN
It’s been 16 matches since Jose Mourinho has tasted defeat as Manchester United boss, and Stoke’s recent dates against top sides haven’t gone well. All three were on the road, but the Potters have fallen to Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal by a combined score of 11-4. Does this make it fait accompli? No, but like Arsenal vs. Burnley, you like to think a true title fighter finds a way to three points.
Merseyside encounter holds significant weight
Southampton vs. Leicester City — Sunday, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN
Perhaps Saints and Leicester supporters figured their sides might struggle to repeat last season’s heroics, with European competition on the docket and key pieces leaving this offseason from either the dugout or the playing field. But 13th and 15th? Unlikely. Leicester can take another step toward righting the ship by heaping misery on the home side, who sits three points clear of the Foxes and eight ahead of the drop zone.