As soon as the tackle from Demba Ba came in things looked bleak. Writhing in pain, Mikel Arteta looked as if he might headline the next chapter in Arsenal’s injury horror novel.
Ligament damage was the natural fear but in a bittersweet gift the Arsenal medical team has announced that Arteta has merely suffered a badly sprained ankle. ‘Merely’ is the silver lining, of course, because in the short term Arteta’s knock is a major blow for the Gunners.
The Spanish midfielder won’t take part in Saturday’s clash with Everton, joining Theo Walcott, Serge Gnabry, Kieran Gibbs and (possibly) Yaya Sanogo on the trainer’s table. Worse yet, Arteta has been ruled out for the second leg of the Champions League play-off against Besiktas next Wednesday where, alongside the suspended Aaron Ramsey, he will endure 90 minutes of anxiety from the stands.
Arteta’s status means that Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini will be the holding midfield partnership against the Turks, with the Italian midfielder replacing Arteta on Tuesday following his injury. Further buttressing the Arsenal lineup will be Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski, all of whom are slated to return to the side following their World Cup break. Neither of the Germans will help the defensive side of the midfield, however, an area that many believed Wenger would strengthen over the summer with links to Sami Khedira or William Carvalho persisting throughout.
Arsenal nevertheless remain upbeat about their Champions League future with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain championing the positivity:
“We almost expect ourselves to qualify. It’s something we worked extremely hard for at the end of last season, to get ourselves into this position, and we don’t want to give it away at this stage. It is massive for us as a club, and as players and the fans. I’m sure you’ll see next week how much everyone wants to be a part of this competition.
“We definitely have to have confidence in ourselves to come through this test. Besiktas are a quality side and it’s not going to be easy at all. They’ll fancy their chances as well and a goalless draw does make our task that little bit harder back at the Emirates Stadium. But I’m confident, if we approach it in the right way and match them physically and competitively, that the technical side of our game will come through.”
The Gunners take on Everton at Goodison Park this Saturday at 12:30pm ET on NBC.