Aaron Ramsey has been ruled out for the next three weeks as Arsenal suffer a midfield crisis, confirms Arsene Wenger.
Arsenal star Ramsey came off after 20 minutes in the 2-1 defeat to Watford on Tuesday. And he is due to miss crucial games against Chelsea and Bayern Munich with a calf strain.
“He will be out for 21 days,” Wenger said.
“We are a bit short in midfield but we have young players who can do well in there, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arsenal travel to Chelsea in tomorrow’s early kick off at Stamford Bridge as they seek to cut the gap on the league leaders to six points.
They then host Hull in the Premier League before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash in Munich on 15 February.
Ramsey is unlikely to be risked for the FA Cup trip to Sutton United, meaning he may not feature for Arsenal again until after the international break, when they travel to Liverpool.
Meanwhile, Wenger provided a further update on the Gunners’ strike force following a disappointing outing against Watford.
“We have lost Ramsey, and (Olivier) Giroud has a test though he should be alright.
“Maybe Danny Welbeck will come back into the group.”
Wenger goes into Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge with Arsenal’s title hopes on the line and Francis Coquelin his only available senior central midfielder.
Aaron Ramsey limped off with a calf strain against Watford, Granit Xhaka is suspended and Mohammed Elneny, carrying another injury, is still at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt. Santi Cazorla is a long-term absentee.
So Wenger is forced to find alternatives. Oxlade-Chamberlain, usually a winger, is likely to start.
Another option identified by Wenger is Maitland-Niles, who spent much of last season as a right back for Ipswich in the Championship.
Up against Antonio Conte’s well-drilled Premier League leaders, the Frenchman’s midfield looks a weak link but he has been impressed with his double-barrelled duo in the central roles of late.
Maitland-Niles and Oxlade-Chamberlain played in a midfield three for the 5-0 FA Cup win at Southampton but neither started against Watford with Ramsey and Coquelin preferred.