Arsenal won 4-0 at Hull City in Tuesday evening’s FA Cup fifth-round replay, but at what cost?
Obviously, the win was excellent and keeps us in the hunt for a third consecutive FA Cup, but we lost Per Mertesacker and Gabriel to injury. Thankfully both appear to be ok.
Aaron Ramsey was also lost to injury and faces a longer spell on the sidelines, Arsène Wenger predicted a four-week absence when he spoke to the media on Friday afternoon. There have been some reports that Ramsey was already struggling ahead of the game, and if so it’s infuriating that he was in the squad.
The FA Cup is important, of course it is, but clinging on to life in the title race it’s more important to have Aaron Ramsey back as quickly as possible than risking having to use him when you’re already beating Hull City.
Now in the quarter-final, is Wenger on the verge of making the same mistake again with Laurent Koscielny? The boss has admitted he’ll be tempted to gamble with the defender’s fitness after consulting ‘medical people’ on Saturday.
Gabriel may not be completely fit either, in which case you play Per Mertesacker with Calum Chambers. Héctor Bellerín is back and he can play right-back, the Mertesacker-Chambers combination has looked very good this season against Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City and you guarantee Koscielny is fully fit before you play him.
Before the international break at the end of the month, Arsenal face Barcelona and Everton. The game at Camp Nou can almost be written off, but Wenger will want to field his strongest available side to have even the smallest chance of heading through. More importantly, we are eight points behind Leicester as it stands and beating Everton is an absolute must.
If the best chance Koscielny has of being close to full fitness is to miss another weekend, so be it. Even a quarter-final.
This season the Premier League is up for grabs. We may have ruined it already, but it could still be there for the taking. That’ll only come to pass now if we keep everyone fit, and we can’t afford to play even more games without a first choice defender.
Please Arsène, do the right thing. If there’s even the slightest doubt over Koscielny on Sunday don’t pick him.