Wenger fears Walcott absence

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iol spt jan5 Walcott-stretcher Reuters Arsene Wenger admits the potential loss of Theo Walcott to a knee injury or through suspension would be a big problem for Arsenal. Photo by: Dylan Martinez

London – Arsene Wenger admits the potential loss of Theo Walcott to a knee injury or through suspension would be a big problem for Arsenal.

Lone frontman Walcott was carried off on a stretcher in the closing stages of the Gunners' 2-0 FA Cup victory over Tottenham after catching his studs in the turf while attempting a challenge on Danny Rose.

The England international also waits to see if he will face any Football Association action after making a '2-0' gesture which so incensed the travelling Spurs support that they threw coins and bottles at the player as he departed the Emirates pitch.

“We don't know yet if it is a stretched ligament or just a kick. He (Theo) got two kicks on his knee,” said Arsenal boss Wenger.

“We still had (Lukas) Podolski and (Mesut) Ozil on the bench. (Olivier) Giroud was sick Ä he was not injured. He was available if he wasn't sick so he should be available for the next game.

“(Nicklas) Bendtner Ä (out for) one month. It could have been more. We suspected more, but it is good news.

“Of course, if we lose Theo Walcott for a longer period then it is a bigger problem.

“I am waiting to see now who walks out there and knocks at the door, waiting to come in. Honestly, do we find better than the players that we have got?”

Of more immediate concern for Wenger's Arsenal will be if Walcott receives any form of suspension for making a '2-0' salute which Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood described as “banter”.

Wenger defended his player and added: “I prefer they (the FA) do not ban him and he is not injured.

“The doctor said to me that the coins had been raining over his head. They had to protect him and that is why he maybe did that.

“It was a reaction which did not offend anybody. I have seen the pictures of it after the game. It does not even look aggressive, it's just smiley.”

Serge Gnabry starred for the Gunners who moved into the fourth round following a convincing display against their north London rivals.

But Wenger sounded a note of caution on the expectation levels surrounding the exciting 18-year-old German starlet.

“I am a strong believer in Serge Gnabry because I integrated him last year. But let's not make superstars with one game,” said Wenger.

“The top level is about consistency, but I believe the ingredients are there. He has to show he can turn up with these kind of performances in every game.”

After Santi Cazorla broke the deadlock in the 31st minute, Tottenham left-back Rose was at fault for Arsenal's second goal following the interval as Tomas Rosicky dispossessed him on the halfway line, raced clear and lifted the ball over goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

“Danny is a good lad and he doesn't shirk any responsibility. I would never berate anyone for making a mistake,” said Sherwood.

“It was obviously a mistake by Danny, but onto the next one. He has got the character and big enough shoulders. I'm sure he will be ready to play on Saturday.

“We have to take this out of our minds now and get on with the league programme which starts next week. We've had six games in 17 days with probably the smallest squad in the league because of the amount of injuries. We were fatigued (against Arsenal) and some sharpness was missing.” – Sapa-AFP


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