More injury worries for Wenger and Arsenal
Arsene Wenger will take stock of Arsenal’s mounting injury problems after the FA Cup holders’ progress to the quarter-finals came at a cost.
Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista were all substituted during the comfortable 4-0 victory at Championship side Hull City that stretched the Gunners’ three-year unbeaten record in the competition.
Retaining the FA Cup for a third season looks to be Arsenal’s best hope of silverware in a season where Wenger has again come under attack for his side’s failings in their efforts to win the Premier League for the first time in 12 years.
They trail surprise leaders Leicester City by eight points, and face elimination from the Champions League going into Tuesday’s return leg against Barcelona, where they trail the last 16 tie 2-0 from the first meeting at the Emirates Stadium last month.
Arsenal host Premier League rivals Watford on Sunday to contest a place in the last four of the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium in April.
But Wenger admits he first faces a head count after the latest unwanted additions to an injury list that was into double figures before his side strolled to an easy win at the KC Stadium, with the likes of Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny and Santi Cazorla already ruled out.
Deflecting questions over a banner unfurled among the 2,500 travelling Arsenal supporters which read ‘thanks for the memories Arsene but it’s time to go’, the Frenchman said: “The injuries came as a shock. Mertesacker is just a cut on his eye and Gabriel is a thigh problem which should hopefully be fine.
“Ramsey is a thigh problem and he looks to be the most serious of the injuries tonight. We’ll know more in the next day or so.”
French forward Olivier Giroud celebrated becoming a father for the second time by scoring twice to end a near two-month goal drought as Arsenal emerged victorious for a 15th consecutive FA Cup tie in a one-sided fifth round replay.
England international Theo Walcott added two late goals as the Gunners avoided a sixth game without a victory, which would have been their worst run for 18 years.
“It’s not disappointing for me. I do my job, look at the history, I have nothing to be scared of. I don’t want to speak about that, it’s always the same story,” Wenger, now in his 20th year in charge, added, brushing off the fans’ protest.
“Judge this season after the season is finished. I’m amazed people tell me how this season has been before it is over. We have not given up anywhere. I believe this club has been in a much worse position. You know what happens in football. It’s on to the next game.”
Steve Bruce admitted the result was a reminder of the quality of opposition Hull hope to come up against on a regular basis in the Premier League, as his side focus their attention on attempting to return to the top flight at the first time of asking following relegation to the Championship last season.
They are well-placed to seal a third promotion in eight years, and Bruce, a three-time FA Cup winner as a player with Manchester United, said: “It’s a harsh lesson, and we’ve not helped ourselves by making mistakes, too.
“It’s a gentle reminder of how good the Premier League can be because they were clinical tonight.”
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