By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Jamie Carragher has criticised Arsene Wenger for failing to sign a proven midfield anchorman to back-up Francis Coquelin.
The Frenchman, 24, is set to be sidelined for three to six months with knee ligament damage sustained in Arsenal’s weekend defeat to West Brom.
Former England defender Carragher is an admirer of Coquelin and believes his absence will “massively” affect the London club’s title challenge.
A senior Arsenal source has told Football Insider that Wenger pulled out of the race to sign Morgan Schneiderlin in the summer, while the manager insisted at his media briefing on Monday that rookie defender Calum Chambers could help fill the gap left by Coquelin until the January transfer window.
Asked about Coquelin’s absence, Carragher told Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football programme: “That’s a blow. We have spoken for years on this show about Arsenal and a holding midfield player. Fortunately for Arsene Wenger, he seemed to find one from within, he bought Coquelin as a young player.
“We were all saying Morgan Schneiderlin was the player who most suited Arsenal. Wenger would say, ‘I’ve got Coquelin now’. You were thinking, ‘what if he got injured’ and, ‘at times why can’t you play the two of them together’? Think of the Tottenham game when Cazorla came off and all he had was [Mathieu] Flamini and [Mikel] Arteta. That’s not enough for Arsenal Football Club.”
Carragher also raised questions about the injury prevention methods at the Gunners, as Coquelin joins the club’s lengthy and seemingly never-ending casualty list.
“Maybe Wenger was thinking he could get away with it if Coquelin stayed fit for the whole season,” added the Liverpool legend. “But with Arsenal’s injury record, no-one stays fit at that football club, for whatever reason. He was becoming a vital player for Arsenal and to lose him now is going to affect Arsenal massively in terms of the title.”
Wenger’s team take on Dynamo Zagreb in a must-win Champions League clash at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night.
Aaron Ramsey will return to the team after missing six matches with a hamstring injury, and an Arsenal source has told Football Insider that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could also be passed fit after a four-game absence.