LONDON: Arsene Wenger may need to dip into the January transfer market and Roy Hodgson will certainly have to find a new right winger after Theo Walcott was ruled out for the next six months with a left knee ligament injury.
Walcott’s distress, sparked by a scan on Monday, was all the more surprising since he was not apparently in pain when being carried off shortly before the end of Saturday’s FA Cup win over Tottenham.
He had even smiled and held up his fingers in a happy “2:0” gesture to Spurs fans as he was being carried off on a stretcher – a gesture which drew a retaliatory hail of coins from derisive visiting supporters.
In the immediate aftermath of the Cup tie, Arsenal manager Wenger played down the injury — incurred while attempting a tackle on Danny Rose — as a kick on the knee. Even after closer medical examination on Sunday, the club’s worst fears were that Walcott had strained knee ligaments, which would have kept him out for about a month.
Hence the interest on Monday was expected only to be whether the Football Association would hit him with a disciplinary charge for inciting trouble. Instead the FA’s decision to take no action was swamped by ther revelation of the serious nature of his injury.
A club statement said that the player had “sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee. Theo will have surgery in London in the near future and is expected to be out for at least six months, therefore missing the remainder of the season and the World Cup in Brazil in the summer.
“Everyone at Arsenal wishes Theo a speedy recovery and we look forward to seeing him back on a football pitch as soon as possible.”
Walcott was sure of a place in Hodgson’s 23-man World Cup squad and, even allowing for Andros Townsend’s international emergence this season, was expected to start the tournament as England’s first-choice right winger.
Hodgson has one more match in which to experiment — a friendly against Denmark at Wembley in March — then names his provisional squad in May.
Walcott’s injury has consequences for Arsenal’s trophy pursuits. Olivier Giroud is the club’s only – barely fit – striker and that could propel a reluctant into the month’s transfer market. Nicklas Bendtner is out for a month with an ankle injury and uncertainty continues to hover over the value of Lukas Podolski.
Serge Gnabry was outstanding against Tottenham but is too young and inexperienced to be considered a full-time deputy for the second half of what could be a very busy and combative trophy-chasing season.
Wenger is reported to have inquired about taking the Spanish under-21 striker Alvaro Morata on loan from Real Madrid. But the likelihood is that any potential candidate should be available for the Champions League.