On Tuesday night, England fans witnessed their worst fears. Talisman Wayne Rooney limped off the field at the Allianz Arena, in Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich.
A colleague and I sat in disbelief as we both uttered in unison, a certain proverbial had: ‘hit the fan,’ as we endured with grimace on our faces, Rooney hobbling off after the final whistle blew.
Just 48 hours on, and although scans have revealed Rooney faces two to four weeks out with minor ligament damage, it’s now Arsenal fans who are reeling from their injury woes.
In the dramatic 2-2 draw with Barcelona, supporters will have left the Emirates stadium, content, after a resilient Arsenal came back from two Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals. Ironically, the striker had previously failed to score against English opposition in ten attempts, but this time the Swede was in irresistible form, as he tormented the Arsenal back line.
Albeit Arsenal could have capitulated after going two goals down, but a tremendous show of pride, passion and belief, earned the Gunner’s a second chance at the Nou Camp, in a week’s time.
However, Wednesday’s fixture could prove to be an expensive night for Arsene Wenger’s men, in their quest for European and domestic glory.
The plethora of injuries started when defender William Gallas was stretchered off in the first half, after a recurrence of a calf injury, which rules the Frenchmen out for the remainder of the season. Then it was Andrei Arshavin who was also replaced in the opening 45 minutes, after suffering a calf injury, with the Russian revealing on his website that he expects to be out for two to three weeks.
Yet it’s the news that Arsenal’s captain, inspiration and playmaker, Cesc Fabregas has been ruled out for the rest of the season, that could put the final nail in the coffin in the Gunner’s attempt to win silverware, for the first time in five years.
The Spaniard was a serious doubt before the quarter-final first league, with severe bruising to his leg and knee, and was only declared fit in the final warm-up. To make matters worse, the midfielder landed awkwardly after lashing home the equaliser from the penalty spot, after Barcelona’s Carlos Puyol was controversially sent off. Despite cracking his right fibula, Fabregas remarkably continued to play the remaining five minutes of the game.
It was the introduction of Theo Walcott that sparked Arsenal’s come back. The substitution’s cameo role even made the terrestrial commentary team resemble that of a group of schoolgirls getting flustered over some third rate pop star.
This morning a section of Arsenal supporters on a radio phone in were adamant that, if Rooney’s fitness is in any doubt for the World Cup, Walcott should be the direct replacement in the England starting eleven. Now, there is no denying Walcott is a terrific talent, and the striker has the commodity that strikes fear into opposition defenders: raw pace, but since he single-handedly destroyed Croatia in Zagreb over 18 months ago in England’s 4-1 victory, his career has stagnated.
To say that Walcott should be a direct replacement to Rooney – a man who has been in scintillating form, which has led journalists to label the Manchester United striker ‘the best in the world’, in the same bracket as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, is frankly ludicrous.
Arsenal are looking to revive their Barclays Premier League title hopes this Saturday, as they face relegation threatened Wolves. However, without the likes of Fabregas, Gallas, Arshavin and with Robin Van Persie still two weeks away, after being sidelined since November, the injury crisis could put an end Arsene Wenger’s title ambitions.
Arsenal survived a master class as statistics showed Barcelona enjoyed 62% of the possession, completing a staggering 533 passes to Arsenal 265, and recording 11 shots on targets to the home sides’ three. In next week’s fixture, Barcelona will be the overwhelming favourites to progress to the semi-finals, however, even though Wenger will be missing hugely influential players, football is not always a formality, as Wednesday night’s game proved.
Written by Joe Questier