How will Walcott injury affect Arsenal's top four chase?

Arsenal’s Theo Walcott has been ruled out for up to 10 days after suffering a pelvic thigh tear in a training session with England.

The Gunners currently sit 4 points off North London rivals Tottenham with a game in hand as they chase the pack ardently trying to close the gap and qualify for Champions League football next season.

However, their hopes doing so may be hampered by the highly inconvenient injury to their top goalscorer.

Walcott has scored 18 goals in all competitions this term for the North Londoners but, since signing his new contract after the ‘will he wont’ he’ saga that dragged on for months, the 23-year-old mysteriously misplaced his shooting boots.

His last goal was scored in the Gunners’ 2-2 home draw with Liverpool back in January – coinciding with his contract renewal. Despite his subsequently goal drought, however, he is an important players in manager Arsene Wenger’s team.

He provides the opposition with a dangerous threat on the wing with his pace and finishing ability and his mere presence on the team sheet prevents the opposition from playing a high line at their own peril.

His link up play with Olivier Giroud has been fairly important to the Frenchman’s success in his debut Premier League season and Walcott’s ability to stretch the play creates crucial space in the middle of the park for midfield maestro Santi Cazorla who pulls all the strings for the Gunners.

In the next 10 days Arsenal face Reading and West Brom – not the most glamorous fixtures but they will be fighting as Reading are relegation candidates struggling for their Premier League survival and West Brom are chasing entry into the Europa League after a very good season by their standards.

In Walcott’s absence, Wenger will likely bring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Aaron Ramsey back into the starting line up on that right flank. The former may be a little fatigued after his involvement with England and Ramsey’s with Wales. However, they are the obvious replacements.

Wenger could, however, opt to move Cazorla wide or even swap Lukas Podolski on to his opposite flank where he could prove effective cutting inside on his favoured left foot.

Wenger has option – not many but he has some. Unfortunately, this is a selection headache the boss could have done without going into a defining final sprint in a season which has been, in many ways, very disappointing.

images: © wonker, © Ronnie Macdonald

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