In one fell swoop, Arsenal's title hopes and England's World Cup odds took a hit on Monday, Jan. 6, as the Gunners announced that Theo Walcott tore his left ACL against Tottenham in the FA Cup.
After coming off injured in Saturday's 2-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur, the Club regrettably announces that Theo Walcott has sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee.
Theo will have surgery in London in the near future and is expected to be out for at least six months, therefore missing the remainder of the season and the World Cup in Brazil in the summer.
Walcott had been playing excellent football, and his combination of pace and goal-scoring ability will be extremely difficult to replace. However, youngster winger Serge Gnabry will now have the opportunity to prove his merit in an expanded role for the rest of the season.
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain still sidelined to injury, Arsenal's only true wingers outside of Gnabry are Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski, and both are generally employed on the left side.
Until Oxlade-Chamberlain returns, Gnabry could see quite a bit of time on the right wing. Arsenal also employed Jack Wilshere on the wing when Walcott was injured earlier in the year—and either Aaron Ramsey or Tomas Rosicky could also play the position—but Gnabry should be given the chance to prove he can handle the right-wing duties.
One thing is certain: Plenty of folks in the Arsenal camp have been impressed by him. Midfielder Mike Arteta had nothing but glowing praise when speaking on Gnabry (via John Cross of the Mirror):
I think has a lot of quality. He has something not many players have in this team which is pace, skill to go and beat people. That’s why the manager played him, three up front is something that helps us be more incisive.
We want to go behind and get into one-versus-one situations. Gnabry is very good like that and I’m very pleased for him because I think he did really well.
He’s like a little boxer, he’s a little fighter. He’s good. He’s got a lot of character as well, the lad doesn’t get intimidated either because it’s a derby.
Technically, he is very good but he has something about him as well. He doesn’t mind when he gets kicked, he gets up and goes for the next ball.
Gnabry was excellent against Tottenham in the FA Cup match between the teams, and that performance will surely give Arsene Wenger confidence in relying on him in the future.
Still, Walcott's injury—along with that of Nicklaus Bendtner and the fact that Olivier Giroud has been over-worked this season—almost assuredly means that the club will look to add another forward on the transfer market.
But in the interim, players like Gnabry will have to step up. He's made just five appearances in the Premier League this season, notching a goal and earning a 6.93 average match rating according to WhoScored.com.
Unless Arsenal are very busy in the transfer window, one would expect the 18-year-old will be asked to grow up very quickly.