Injury crisis deepens at Arsenal

Mikael Silvestre is ready to ease Arsenal's defensive crisis after an ankle injury to left-back Kieran Gibbs.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger will be keeping his fingers crossed no more players are struck down during tonight's internationals - having seen Dutch striker Robin van Persie suffer ankle ligament damage which will sideline him until probably early January.

England Under-21 international Gibbs was pencilled in for an extended first-team run following Gael Clichy's back problem, before the injury which forced him out of the European Championship qualifier in Vilnius last night.

The 20-year-old has returned to be assessed by Arsenal's own medical staff to determined the extent of the damage, which is hoped is not as bad as initially feared.

With Armand Traore, who has made just one appearance in the Carling Cup, only just returning from a groin problem, Wenger is likely to turn to the experienced former Manchester United defender to fill in on the left side of defence.

Silvestre, 32, has watched from the bench for most of the season, appearing in only the Champions League qualifier against Celtic and two Carling Cup fixtures.

The Frenchman - who won the title four times as well as the European Cup while at Old Trafford before joining the Gunners in August 2008 - is ready to take his chance when domestic action resumes this weekend.

"It is always difficult to stay on the bench, but that is part of playing at the high level," Silvestre told Arsenal TV Online.

"You have to get on with it, and that is what I have been doing.

"It is always a test, whether you will be ready when it is going to be your time and you never know when that will be."

Silvestre added: "I feel good, fully fit.

"I just do what I have been doing - training hard and support the team.

"The pressure is higher because even if you are training hard, it is not like playing games.

"But as long as you enjoy it, then the rest will come."

The Gunners went into the international break on a run of 13 matches unbeaten through all competitions, which saw them climb to second in the Barclays Premier League, five points behind Chelsea but with a game in hand ahead of their meeting at the end of the month.

Silvestre believes if the free-scoring Gunners can tighten up at the back, then they can become genuine title challengers again.

"We are scoring goals, but also can concede a little bit, we need to stop that," he said.

"I think Chelsea is going to be a big test for us. It could be a decider for the league title this season.

"We are in a good position so the players are well aware of what was missing last season and everybody is focused on giving 100% for the rest of the season.

"We are in the race, and with a little improvement, we can be a real threat this season."

As well as problems in defence, Wenger also has a shortage of fit strikers, with Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott both still sidelined, meaning Croatia marksman Eduardo is likely to lead the attack at the Stadium of Light.

Arsenal players, meanwhile, are donating a day's wages from the Chelsea match to the club's charity of the season, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children - an initiative which involved the likes of captain Cesc Fabregas dressed up as furry animals to help raise money.

Arsenal tonight confirmed the prognisis for Gibbs was positive on what has now been established a foot injury, with only a short-term absence anticpated meaning the defender should be back in action for the visit of Chelsea on November 29.

A statement from the club read: "After being assessed by the Arsenal medical staff, the club can confirm that Kieran Gibbs has sustained severe bruising to the bones and soft tissue of his right foot.

"Thankfully the foot is not fractured and his enforced absence will be short term."

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