By Editor Wayne Veysey
Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are facing injury absences and other things we learned from Sheffield Wednesday 3 Arsenal 0.
Walcott counts cost of failing to warm up properly
Thirteen minutes after being sent on as a fifth-minute substitute for Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott trudged forlornly back to the bench alongside physio Gary Lewin, his match over before it had barely begun. The forward had pulled up with what appeared to be a calf injury and, judging by the look of concern on his face, it might not be a minor problem. Intriguingly, Arsene Wenger had instructed Walcott to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain before he had time to properly warm up on the side pitch. As injury prevention methods go, and for an explosive player of Walcott’s type, this was a decision straight out of the dark ages. Should Walcott not be fit to face Swansea on Saturday, it will also prove to be a hopelessly misguided one.
Oxlade-Chamberlain set to be sidelined with hamstring problem
Selected in the No10 role, this had seemed the perfect opportunity for the attacking midfielder to design the game from a central position. Just two minutes into the match, he pulled up as he chased a ball close to the touchline and then whispered into Lewin’s ear that he was feeling pain in his hamstring. Oxlade-Chamberlain was hauled off soon afterwards and his body language as he left the putch suggested that he had pulled the muscle and is expecting to spend some time in the treatment room. This is a major blow. With Aaron Ramsey already sidelined with a hamstring injury, Walcott also potentially unavailable and Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck out until the new year, Wenger will have to find someone to patrol then right flank against Swansea.
Rookies given little opportunity to shine
You had to feel for 19-year-old duo Alex Iwobi and Glen Kamara. Handed their debuts by Wenger on the biggest night of their football lives, it quickly proved to be an evening to forget. The early exits of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain appeared to rob the other senior players of their vim and vigour. The knock-on effect was that central midfielder Kamara and left-winger Iwobi could not get on the ball and show why they had earned their first-team promotions. By the time a third debutant, Ismael Bennacur, replaced Kamara at the hour mark, Arsenal were 3-0 down and had given up the ghost.
Arsenal have bigger fish to fry
In the bigger scheme of things, the League Cup is not a priority for Arsenal. Although Wenger showed the competition respect by naming nine senior players in his starting X1, it was clear from a very early stage that the visitors were not pulling out all the stops to make it to the quarter-final. After Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain limped off, the remaining senior players hardly put their bodies on the line against the motivated home side. Skipper Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud ambled around like it was a training exercise, Mathieu Debuchy looked like he had forgotten how to man-mark and even the normally ultra-intense Mathieu Flamini did not seem up for the battle.
Cazorla might be pushed wide against Swansea
With Ramsey, Wilshere, Welbeck, Rosicky likely to be joined in the treatment room by Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott, Wenger potentially has a mini-midfield crisis against Swansea on Saturday. The role of Santi Cazorla is likely to be central to Wenger’s thoughts as he weighs up various permutations ahead of the weekend. Outstanding in a deep-lying playmaker role in the early months of the season, the Spaniard might have to be pushed back to the flanks, with Flamini or Mikel Arteta recalled to the team to partner Francis Coquelin in central midfield.