With Premiership clubs returning to league action this weekend, it looks as though Saturday’s major clash between Manchester City and Arsenal has lost some of its “big-name” luster, as both City’s Carlos Tevez and the Gunners’ Andrey Arshavin will miss this match.
Yes, the injury curse that seems to regularly hit Arsenal players during international breaks has struck again, as Arshavin has aggravated the groin problem that surfaced earlier this season. He is now set to sit out for a week or more, according to manager Arsene Wenger’s comments in media reports Thursday.
The diminutive playmaker was kept out of Russia’s lineup for its match last weekend with Liechtenstein, but did play the full 90 minutes in the 3-1 win over Wales on Wednesday, when the groin problem flared up again.
Wenger was quoted in an article on ESPN’s Soccernet, saying that Arshavin “should not have played. He will be out for Saturday, for Wednesday (at Standard Liege) and certainly as well for Wigan. I took him out at Manchester United because of a groin problem.”
The story indicates that Russia coach Guus Hiddink apparently let Arshavin decide himself whether he was fit to play in the Group Four match at the Millennium Stadium, saying: “If (Arshavin) cannot play, then he won’t play. His improvement has been significant but he doesn’t take stupid risks.”
Tomas Rosicky, who hasn’t seen competitive action for the Gunners in over a year because of injury, played for almost an hour for the Czech Republic in its qualifying match with San Marino on Wednesday, meaning that the midfielder could see action for Arsenal soon.
Other Gunners in action for their countries in World Cup qualifying play Wednesday included three who scored goals, with Nicklas Bendtner, Cesc Fabregas and Eduardo da Silva each hitting the net.
Bendtner actually scored in both of his country’s games during this international break, yet Denmark was only able to draw in each contest. The Danes still sit atop UEFA’s Group One, though both Sweden and Portugal closed the gap with wins on Wednesday.
Fabregas’ goal was one of three scored by Spain in a home win over Estonia, which earned the country automatic qualification for the 2010 World Cup from UEFA Group Five.
England also officially qualified on Wednesday, defeating Croatia 5-1 at Wembley to capture Group Six. A late goal from Arsenal’s Eduardo was the only tally for the visitors, who now look to qualify through the UEFA playoffs for second-place finishers in group play.
France may also have to gain entry that way, as its two matches during this international qualifying period were both draws and left Le Bleus four points behind Serbia in Group Seven.
Arsenal defenders William Gallas and Bacary Sagna each played full matches in both of France’s qualifiers, while Abou Diaby and Gael Clichy did not see time on the pitch in either match.
The four Frenchmen were among the first to return — without injury — to the Emirates after the break. But Wenger noted that all of Arsenal’s first-teamers had not arrived back with the club yet, “so we have to wait a bit to see what damage has been done by the international games.”