Clichy injury puts Wenger on back foot without a fit left-back

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The Independent Football

Arsenal are facing a new injury crisis after Gaël Clichy was diagnosed with a broken metatarsal after limping out of the first leg of the England-France Under-21 play-off at White Hart Lane on Friday. With Ashley Cole suffering a setback in his comeback from a foot injury Arsène Wenger is likely to be without a specialist left-back for at least a month.

Clichy was ruled out of tonight's Under-21 second leg after a scan revealed the injury. He is expected to be out for six weeks. Cole, who had hoped to be back later this month, is not expected to return until next month.

The injury will infuriate Wenger who is already unhappy at his players' international commitments and the repercussions. Clichy is the fourth Arsenal player to be injured on international duty this season. Thierry Henry, Sol Campbell and Alexander Hleb have previously missed club games following matches with France, England and Belarus respectively.

In the absence of Clichy and Cole, Wenger has to decide whether to switch Lauren, his right-back, to the left flank, and play Kolo Touré or Emmanuel Eboué at right-back, or to deploy a central defender there. Pascal Cygan has been used at left-back in the past but did not convince.

One blessing is that Arsenal have qualified for the Champions' League knock-out stage. In the next month they have two now-redundant group matches, against Thun in Switzerland next week, and Ajax at Highbury. By the time the knock-out stage begins, in February, Cole should be fit.

In the Premiership, however, Wenger is anxious to make up ground on Chelsea. They play at second-placed Wigan on Saturday then meet Blackburn, Bolton and Newcastle. Wenger will hope one of his left-backs is fit before the home match against Chelsea on 17 December.