Gibbs Injury Leaves A Bittersweet Taste for Wenger

After pouring scorn on the reporter who questioned Theo Walcott’s chances of making England’s World Cup squad on Monday, it would take a brave man to pose the same question of Kieran Gibbs fitness to Arsene Wenger this morning.

The Lambeth-born left-back was the subject of a cynical challenge by Elliaquim Mangala, the Liege midfielder, which resulted in the explosive defender sustaining a fractured metatarsal during the closing stages of the 2-0 victory over Standard. 

Gibbs’ injury left Wenger seething as he joins Nicklas Bendtner, Abou Diaby, Robin van Persie and Gael Clichy, the first choice left back, who are all set for length spells on the sidelines.

“Gibbs has a big hole in his leg,” fumed the Frenchman. “It was a very bad challenge by the number 22 and it was not his first try, unfortunately. It doesn’t look good for Gibbs.”

You’d be wisely advised to whisper this to the Arsenal manager, but it could have been far worse. Andrei Arshavin, the Arsenal forward, and William Gallas, scorer of the goal for France which extinguished Ireland’s World Cup hopes, both suffered knocks in a nasty clash of heads. The incident left Arshavin bloodied and requiring staples in a head wound, and Gallas visibly shaken with a swollen eye. The central defender was replaced by Mikael Silvestre at the interval.

Although Wenger will almost certainly be counting the cost this morning, the Gunners have secured progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League with a game to spare.

Liege, who started so emphatically against the North Londoners in the reverse fixture on match day one, were on the back foot from the first whistle as Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri orchestrated Arsenal’s trademark pass-and-move idiosyncrasy. And the tone could have been set as early as the fifth minute as the latter picked out Fabregas who saw his attempt saved by Sinan Bolat in the Standard goal.

Then followed the mother and father of all goalmouth scrambles as Gallas saw his effort blocked by Bolat and Carlos Vela struck a post with the follow up, before Bolat again saved but this time from Thomas Vermaelen, the Arsenal centre back.

Cavalier finishing has often been a penchant that has proved fatal for the Gunners, and history almost repeated itself once again as Dieudonne Mbakani beat Manuel Almunia but rattled the crossbar with his swerving shot against the run of play.

With the woodwork still shaking, it served as a wake up call to a side who’s manager demanded an immediate improvement following an apathetic showing during the weekend defeat to Sunderland.

And Arsenal duly went ahead as Landry Melumo stumbled on the edge of the area on the 35th minute, allowing Nasri to glide through the Liege defence onto Gibbs perfectly executed through ball. The Algerian-born Frenchman clipped his shot past Bolat to provide classy gloss to a fortuitous move.

It took just 10 more minutes for Arsenal to double their advantage and seal their place as victors of Group H, as Bolat, who had so often been the saviour of his side during a half in which they were totally outclassed, was made to look absolutely absurd. Denilson, making his first start since September, picked up the ball from 35-yards out following neat interplay on the edge of the penalty area, and sighted goal before releasing a swerving shot of mediocre power that the Liege goalkeeper completely misjudged, allowing the ball to pass his trailing right hand into the back of the net.

The two-goal advantage ended the game as a contest and it showed. The second-half was a nonentity with litte goalmouth action of notable interest. Perhaps Wenger was preoccupied by his selection dilemma for Sunday’s battle at the summit of the Premiership, as it’s a characteristic of Le Professeur to urge his team to victory of a greater margin than two goals in games such as these.

What the contest lacked in goals in the second half however, was made up for by the pocket of referee Konrad Plautz, the Austrian referee, who dismissed Liege midfielder Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez for a needless clash with Cesc Fabregas as time neared expiry.

With the Gunners now confirmed as the winners of Group H, Liege play AZ Alkmaar on match day six knowing that victory over the Dutch side twinned with an Arsenal defeat of Olympiacos will result in them joining their conqueurers in the knockout phase. Anything less, and they will be left to slum it out in the comparative basement of the Europa League.

RESULT: ARSENAL 2 (Nasri 35, Denilson 45+2)   STANDARD LIEGE 0

ARSENAL: Almunia, Eboue, Gallas (Silvestre 46), Vermaelen, Gibbs, Song, Denilson (Rosicky 67),  Nasri (Walcott 60), Fabregas, Vela, Arshavin

Unused Subs: Mannone, Traore, Eduardo, Sagna

Booked: Fabregas

STANDARD LIEGE: Bolat, Camozzato, Sarr, Felipe, Mulemo, Witsel, Goreux, Mangala, Carcela-Gonzalez, Dalmat (Traore 64), Mbokani (Bi Cyriac 68)

Unused Subs: van Hout, Victor Ramos, Rocha, Gershon, Nicaise

Booked: Mangala, Mulemo             Sent Off: Carcela Gonzalez

Referee: Konrad Plautz (Austria)

One Response to “Gibbs Injury Leaves A Bittersweet Taste for Wenger”

  1. toni Says:

    Well done to Arsenal, they can concentrate on progressing in the FA cup

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