Walcott injury sends Wenger, Arsenal searching for quick solutions at forward

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If Theo Walcott’s injury was Arsenal’s only health concern, the situation would be bad enough. But Olivier Giroud is also out. So is Nicklas Bendtner as well as a handful of other people beyond the forward line. Now, with only Lukas Podolski healthy among Arsenal’s normal forward options, the Premier League-leading Gunners are experiencing a textbook injury crisis at the striker position.

Short on options ahead of Monday’s visit to Villa Park, it’s understandable why Arsenal is seeking what The Guardian’s calling a “quick-fix” solution. But contrary to the more unbelievable rumors, that fix might not involve the likes of Atlético Madrid’s Diego Costa, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic or Manchester City’s Edin Dezko. (Seriously, why would some of these guys move in January anyway?) Wary of paying the inflated prices in the January window, Arsène Wenger is said to have instructed scouts to find a short-term solution – somebody that can help the club make it to June before redressing the position this summer.

[MORE: Theo Walcott will miss rest of season and World Cup]

That leaves somebody like Real Madrid’s Álvaro Morata. The 21-year-old has been near a goal-per-game scorer at youth levels for Spain, part of the reason Carlo Ancelotti wanted to keep him around the Santiago Bernabéu this season. Yet after the late August acquisition of Gareth Bale restored El Real’s attacking depth, Morata’s been limited to one La Liga start (though he has come on nine times as a substitute). In 14 all-competition appearances, the Madrid-born talent as two goals, with a lack of playing time limiting his production.

How much more playing time he’d get through June at Arsenal is an open question, but in the short-term, Morata would go to the top of the depth chart. When Olivier Giroud returns (and reportedly, he’s close) Morata would still often valuable cover for a player whose Champions League starts will prompt some rotation in February. As Arsenal’s season progresses, preserving Giroud’s minutes could be one of the many thin margins for error that defines this season’s Premier League title race.

[MORE: Theo Walcott just the first; roster of World Cup injury misfortune sure to grow]

The risk here is whether Morata will have an impact. At Real Madrid B and with Spain’s U-level teams, he’s produced, and via the eye test, he certainly looks like somebody who can contribute for most teams in the world …

… and during Arsenal’s injury crisis, the Gunners’ could be one of those teams. Yet Morata still represents more risk than going out and finding somebody with a more proven track record. Whereas Morata has more talent than most players Arsenal could acquire, it’s no given that talent will translate into Premier League goals.

Still, when you stop and consider the thin layer of proven options that would fit at Arsenal, Morata’s risk might be worthwhile. As players like Demba Ba and Andy Carroll have shown at clubs like Chelsea and Liverpool, some players can’t translate performance at one level to production on another. Add in Arsenal’s style of play and need to find somebody who can make an impact in Champions League and a title race, it may be better to roll the dice on potential than accept limitations.

Ultimately, this is only for six months. Acquiring another player — a more proven option from another team — would probably require a purchase as opposed to a loan. A short-term commitment allows Arsenal to dip back into the market in June without an ongoing financial commitment.

Thus, the argument for Morata. Or, a Morata-like player. At least, that’s the theory behind it. Whether Real Madrid cares about this line of thinking is another issue entirely.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.