Five surprisingly key players who must not get injured before January

The summer transfer market offers managers an opportunity to bring in strength and depth to their squads but injury can still wreak havoc over their plans. Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle and Tottenham all feature.

Here are five key players in the Premier League for whom injury would be a disaster for their managers in the run up to January when they can bring in reinforcements…

1) Olivier Giroud – Arsenal

Arsene Wenger’s deadline day failure to sign Demba Ba on loan from Chelsea (which Jose Mourinho very wisely blocked after the Gunners signed Mesut Ozil) means the French boss is over reliant on Olivier Giroud as his only recognized centre-forward again this term.

Compounded by injury to Lukas Podolski, (out for three months with a hamstring tear) an injury to Giroud would leave Wenger with only Yaya Sanogo or Theo Walcott as alternatives up front and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury (out for ten weeks) means the French youngster would likely be in for a baptism of fire. Even Nicklas Bendtner isn’t an option (out with a broken wrist and bruising to his inflated ego).

2) Joleon Lescott – Manchester City

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping Joleon Lescott stays fit and available in the absence of captain Vincent Kompany (out until October with a groin injury), new signing Martin Demichelis (out until late-October with a knee injury) and the perpetually-injured Micah Richards (hamstring at present) which leaves only young Matija Nastasic to cover in central defence.

I suppose Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksander Kolarov or Javi Garcia could come in and do a job but that’s not a scenario Pellegrini will want to explore and certainly not for long. It’s ironic that Lescott had been linked with a move away from the Etihad all summer and now his stay there is crucial to their title challenge.

3) Davide Santon – Newcastle United

Another defender whose boss is relying on him is Davide Santon – long term injuries to Ryan Taylor and Massadio Haidara leave Alan Pardew with 22-year-old Santon as his only real option at left-back.

A short-term injury to winger Jonas Gutierrez (out for a week with a hamstring injury) also means Santon’s fitness is paramount as there is not an obvious option to come in to replace him who is genuinely comfortable as a fullback.

4) Danny Rose – Tottenham Hotspur

Another fullback in the spotlight is Tottenham youngster Danny Rose who has been in fine form of late but, subsequently, Spurs sent left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto out on loan to QPR and, suddenly, Spurs are heavily reliant on the youngster.

Injury to Etienne Capoue also means Sandro is going to have to stay fit in midfield and, whist young fullback Kyle Naughton could, if required, come in and do a job on his opposite side, Andre Villas-Boas wouldn’t want that to be a long-term selection. Jan Vertonghen could potentially move wide but as Spurs’ best centre-back you want him where he’s most effective.

5) Mathieu Flamini – Arsenal

Another unexpected player in the spotlight is the re-signed Gunners midfielder. With Arsenal light at the back (injury to Thomas Vermaelen leaves only Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker as recognized centre-backs) and the boss’ preference to use Bacary Sagna to cover there, means Flamini could prove crucial in the run up to January.

Flamini’s versatility – he can play as a defensive midfielder and cover as a centre-back or right-back – means Arsenal shouldn’t find themselves playing Aaron Ramsey as a centre-back again like they did on the opening day of the season.

Injury to Mikel Arteta means Flamini will likely rotate in and out of midfield with Ramsey but the Frenchman could be crucial in the event that Mertesacker or Kocielny gets injured or suspended.

Other foreseeable problems include:

Rafael and Phil Jones’ fitness concerns at Manchester United – David Moyes could find himself deploying Chris Smalling at right-back and no one really needs to see that.

Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa too – with the number 10 injured, United are missing a real creative player in midfield. The failure to sign a playmaker means the Japanese maestro is going to have to step up and ensure he stays fit for the long haul.

Daniel Sturridge and Lucas at Liverpool – the former’s form and fitness is key to Brendan Rodgers until Luis Suarez comes back in from the cold of his FA suspension and the boss still has the Brazilian as his only recognized defensive midfielder.

Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott at Arsenal – with long-term injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski, Walcott’s only obvious replacement is Ramsey as a make-shift winger and Cazorla’s only alternative on the opposite flanks is Tomas Rosicky whose own fitness woes don't exactly fill one with confidence.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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