Arsenal injury crises are becoming as common as fourth-place finishes and the north Londoners’ beaten-up squad was dealt yet another blow with the news that Santi Cazorla will be ruled out for three months with a knee ligament problem.
As the season rumbles on to the hectic Christmas period, the Gunners are in grave danger of being able to list an entire starting XI as unavailable.
They currently have 10 players out of action, with their Spanish midfielder joining the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Laurent Koscielny and Francis Coquelin as key men that Wenger cannot call on.
Although that trio have all been superb for the French tactician this term, it is the loss of Cazorla that is the biggest blow to Arsenal’s title aspirations, which are currently priced at 3/1 by Ladbrokes.
The former Malaga man has cemented himself as the ultimate pass-master over the past two seasons, operating in the double pivot and controlling the pace of Arsenal’s game. No other Premier League player has made more passes than the 30-year-old in 2015.
In fact, Cazorla’s closest rival in that department is Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, who has made exactly 500 passes less than the Arsenal star.
The problem Wenger has in trying to replace his some-time skipper is that all his other playmaking options are also on the sidelines.
Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky would all be able to fill the hole left by Cazorla, but are also injured.
It means the league’s longest-serving manager may need Aaron Ramsey to reign in his galloping tendencies to substitute as the team’s playmaker instead.
The Welshman’s success for the Emirates outfit has come as a roaming box-to-box player and has even been used as a right winger at times this season.
His ability to keep the ball isn’t raved about, yet he is averaging the third-highest number of passes per game in the Gunners squad, behind Cazorla and Mesut Ozil – who is too ill-disciplined defensively to drop deeper.
Ramsey has shown an aptitude to adapt to new roles and is most likely to deputise for his crocked teammate for the next few months, starting with a home outing against Sunderland at the weekend where the Gunners are 1/4 to win.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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