Arsene Wenger's injury headaches worsened yesterday when William Gallas, the Arsenal defender, was ruled out for the rest of the season. But he was more optimistic about the Russian forward Andrei Arshavin. A day after Arsenal revealed captain Cesc Fabregas's season had been ended by a broken leg, the Gunners' hopes of challenging for the Premier League title took a fresh hit when Gallas was sidelined with a calf injury that has troubled him since February.
"Gallas is [out for] longer than three weeks, I would say personally five weeks for Gallas," said Wenger, effectively ruling the player out of the domestic season. The French centre-back also faces an anxious wait after Raymond Domenech, the France coach, said yesterday that players not fit by May 18 will not be involved in this summer's World Cup in South Africa. Gallas was one of five players injured in Tuesday's 2-2 Champions League quarter-final first-leg draw with Barcelona on what could prove to be a damaging night for the north London club.
Arsenal have since learned that Fabregas broke his leg when he was tackled by Carles Puyol, while Arshavin limped off with a calf problem. Wenger's third-placed side trail the Premier League leaders, Manchester United, by four points with six matches remaining and also face a Champions League second-leg trip to the Camp Nou on Tuesday. "We want to focus on our targets and still achieve them," Wenger said. "I am still confident, but we know now we cannot afford to drop points. I believe we have enough strength and character in the squad - we have shown that many times this season. Now, the target is even higher because we lost more players."
Earlier yesterday Arshavin had told Sport-Express newspaper that he feared his injury is more serious than originally diagnosed. "I think I have torn it [calf muscle]. If that's true, then I'll be out for a long time, at best after three weeks but at worst I won't play at all this season." Wenger was more optimistic of the Russian international's chances. "Twenty-one days minimum, by April 23 he should be clear to play again," he said.
Wolves go in to today's match five points above the drop zone after two wins and two draws in their last four games. However, they have lost their last nine games with Arsenal and have not beaten them in their last 14 meetings - a run dating back to 1979. * Reuters Arsenal v Wolves, 6pm, Showsports 2