Arsenal will be without key players for the start of the Premier League season
Injuries and long summer tournaments will see the Gunners missing many players, especially in attack
After the completion of the two major international tournaments this summer, Arsenal will be short-staffed when the Premier League campaign kicks off on the weekend of 13 August. With less than a month to go, Arsene Wenger is looking at playing a second string side when they face Liverpool in the season’s opener.
Jurgen Klopp’s side visit the Emirates on 14 August, Sunday, and the Copa America and Euro 2016 have severely dented the Gunners’ chances of fielding a strong starting lineup. While some players are out with long-term injuries, many others need a break before they resume club football following a hectic season.
The biggest worry is Alexis Sanchez who won the Copa America with Chile. Although the final was played in the last week of June, Alexis suffered an ankle injury that could see his recovery process take longer. The Chilean forward had even posted pictures of a heavily swollen ankle after he had twisted it in the final against Argentina.
Translation: Fourth day of my vacation, locked up in the hotel bored, hahaha... But I'm much better.
Among the players who represented their countries at Euro 2016, it is the French players who will have a month off after they reached the final. France’s Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny will not return to training until just a week before the Gunners face Liverpool and it is highly unlikely that they will be match fit for the first game.
“You consider the rest time because France had a long, long go and I believe that they need four weeks’ holiday because they need to recover from that,” Wenger said on Arsenal’s official website.
“It takes you two or three weeks to regenerate; to recover completely, and they need to come back with hunger. That disappointment to lose a final, it takes some time to recover from that.”
Germany reached the semi-finals before losing to France and Mesut Ozil played a key role in Die Mannschaft’s run to the penultimate round. Ozil is also on vacation at the moment and Wenger spoke of his performances in France. Wales also reached the semis although Aaron Ramsey, one of their best players, was suspended for the semi-final.
“I think Ozil had a good tournament as well. I met him after the game with France, he was of course very disappointed but most of them had good performances.”
“Apart from England, who of course came out a bit early, some players had a very positive experience – like Aaron Ramsey with Wales [and] Alexis with Chile. They won again the Copa America so that’s a fantastic achievement because they were away from home this time.”
Arsenal short of strikers for opening weekend
With Giroud rested and Alexis recovering from an ankle injury, the Gunners are without any good strikers to lead the line. Danny Welbeck suffered a knee injury in the final month of last season that saw him miss the Euros. The English striker had only made a long-awaited return to the side in February and will be on the sidelines a few months longer as he recuperates.
Wenger had tried to sign Jamie Vardy from Leicester City but the 29-year-old eventually rejected Arsenal’s offer and signed a contract extension with the Foxes. The north London club have also been linked with Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain in a possible swap deal involving Giroud but reports have claimed that the Argentine striker is interested in joining Serie A rivals Juventus instead.
The only experienced forward Arsenal have at the moment is Theo Walcott who did not make the England squad for the Euros and returned to training this month ahead of the new season. The only other options they have are Chuba Akpom and the highly inexperienced 23-year-old Yaya Sanogo.
Perhaps it is with this in mind that Wenger opted not to send Alex Iwobi for the Olympics with the Nigerian squad. The 20-year-old has impressed since scoring on his Premier League debut against Everton and again in the next match against Watford.
Wenger still has time to sign another striker before the transfer window closes. But getting a world class striker to supplant Giroud when he returns looks unlikely at the moment.