Van Persie and Gibbs boost Arsenal
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger breathed something of a sigh of relief after learning the damage to Robin van Persie and Kieran Gibbs during the international break was not as severe as first feared.
Nearly all of the Gunners squad have been away around the globe during the last fortnight — which ended in World Cup joy for William Gallas as his controversial goal put paid to the Republic of Ireland in Paris, though midfielder Andrey Arshavin was left disappointed as Russia failed to make it through the play-offs.
While the loss of Holland striker Van Persie for at least six weeks with ankle ligament damage is a major blow, Wenger knows it could have been much worse.
Gibbs, meanwhile, looks set to be back in action for the visit of Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea at the end of the month, if not before, with scans showing his foot injury suffered while away with England Under-21s in Lithuania is not serious.
“We knew when Robin came out with this injury that he would be out for a long time, but frankly I feared it would be more because the first news was very, very bad. So it was a relief that he would be out for six weeks,” Wenger said.
“Of course it is a disappointment and something we did not want, but I feel we have enough strength to compensate for his absence for a while.
“It will also allow him to be fresh for when he comes back.”
On the subject of Gibbs, he added: “Our medical staff called me saying he was in hospital in Lithuania with a suspected broken metatarsal.
“Later on, it was much better news.
“He will still be out for Sunderland, but maybe we could have him back for (the Champions League clash with) Standard Liege on Tuesday.”
Nevertheless, Wenger still has selection worries in both defence and attack ahead of the trip to Sunderland, where his depleted side will be out to extend a run of 13 unbeaten matches in all competitions which has seen them climb to second in the league table.
Gibbs had been pencilled in to replace Gael Clichy (back) on the left side of defence, but that role is now likely to be filled by veteran Mikael Silvestre.
Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner is still sidelined by a groin problem which needed surgery and, with England forward Theo Walcott (knee) short of full match fitness, Croatia marksman Eduardo — who this week agreed a new long-term deal — looks set to take Van Persie's place at the head of the Arsenal attack this weekend.
Wenger, though, has been boosted by the availability of midfielder Denilson, the young Brazilian having been out of action since mid-September with a back problem.