Normally a match with Cardiff City wouldn’t cause Arsenal to flinch.
But this New Year’s Day the Gunners will be forced to take on the South Wales club without the likes of star players Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Kieran Gibbs who have all been ruled out with injury.
In last weekend’s 1-0 win over Newcastle, Giroud picked up an ankle problem while Gibbs suffered a calf issue. These injuries compounded Arsenal’s preexisting issues with Ramsey rehabilitating a thigh injury and Ozil nursing an inflamed shoulder.
Making matters worse, Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (calf) and Theo Walcott (shoulder) all face late fitness tests for Wednesday’s clash with the Bluebirds while Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen are also question marks after recovering from illness.
The predicament has left Wenger with nothing to do but marvel at the situation. “You need a good memory because we have plenty of problems,” said the Frenchman before ripping off the laundry list of casualities.
“Ramsey and Ozil are out. Ramsey (for) three weeks and Ozil has seen a specialist last night, I haven’t got a report yet. We lost Gibbs at Newcastle with a calf strain. We have as well Monreal and Vermaelen, who are not sure to be ready because they come just back from illness, then we have uncertainty about Rosicky, Wilshere and Walcott. We lost Giroud with an ankle problem at Newcastle, so this morning will be more a medical check to see who will be available for tomorrow’s game.”
Wenger explained that Giroud’s injury will only keep him out for the short term. “Olivier is a strong structure and he recovers quite quickly. He thinks he will be all right for Saturday, but the medical people think he will be a bit short. He is quite optimistic about it.”
Arsenal’s injury issues mean Lukas Podolski could earn his first start since returning from long term injury. The German international could find himself on the left wing or up top as the loan striker, unless Wenger opts for Nicholas Bendtner or Theo Walcott.
Santi Cazorla will provide the creative element in the attacking midfield while lesser used players like Serge Gnabry could also be in line for a start. Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini will be the likely holding pair in front of a back four that includes Carl Jenkinson, Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.
Arsenal and Cardiff kickoff at 10:00am ET on NBC Extra Time and Live Extra.