Ten minutes into the second half on Wednesday, with Arsenal trailing 2-0 to Tottenham, Arsène Wenger summoned Alexander Hleb from the bench. It was the young Gunners' evening and the manager had not intended to call on his more senior players. It will be a cause for regret that he did as yesterday the midfielder was ruled out for a month with a hamstring strain.
The loss of another key player will have tempered Wenger's joy after his side came back to draw 2-2 in the Carling Cup semi-final first leg. It was the same story on Sunday against Manchester United when Wenger brought on Robin van Persie with his side one down. Arsenal won but lost their striker for a lengthy spell to a broken toe.
"Hleb will be out for a good four weeks," Wenger said. "That is the disappointing side. It puts our performance into perspective. You do not want to lose players in January because, if you lose them for a long time, then their season can be over."
The striker Jérémie Aliadière picked up a back injury and Emmanuel Eboué, another first-team player brought on, hurt his ankle at White Hart Lane, and the pair may not recover in time to face Bolton Wanderers on Sunday in the FA Cup at the Emirates.
Wenger also suggested Van Persie could struggle to play again this season. "Ideally, you would say [he will miss] six to eight weeks - but as well it could be 10," he said. "That is April and you are close to the end of the season and you will need to get back to your best level. I hope it will be six weeks - but that is really optimistic."
While the Gunners received the plaudits yesterday, Spurs' Pascal Chimbonda is confident he can beat Arsenal in the semi-final as he did with Wigan last year. "I know what it takes to beat Arsenal and get to the final and Tottenham are good enough to do it," he said. "I don't know if Arsenal are a stronger team than last year but it would be really special to be the first team to win at the Emirates. They are back in the tie, but there is still a belief we can do it."Reuse content