Arsène Wenger revealed his fury with Ryan Bennett yesterday, saying that the Norwich City defender “could have killed” Alexis Sanchez by pushing him into a cameraman’s pit at Carrow Road last Sunday.
Sanchez injured his hamstring soon after, leaving Arsenal to do without their best player for most of this month.
Santi Cazorla will be out for far longer, after suffering a suspected rupture of the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee. Wenger revealed yesterday how Cazorla played for almost the whole second half on Sunday with the injury, after insisting he could play on. That injury came from an accidental collision with Gary O’Neil, but Wenger had harsh words for his Norwich team-mate Bennett, who pushed Sanchez into a cameraman by the side of the pitch.
“When Sanchez was pushed into the boards on the side of the field, that did not shock anybody,” Wenger said. “It is absolutely dangerous to have a camera there. He could have killed him. [Bennett] did not need to push him like he did.” Bennett tweeted after the game that he “genuinely was trying to stop”.
In the second half of that game Sanchez injured his right hamstring, which will probably rule him out for the rest of this month. Wenger had reported the winger’s hamstring was tight before the Norwich game but the manager insisted he had not been reckless in playing his £30m Chilean. “I tested him before the game and said, ‘If you have the slightest muscle problem tell me, I don’t play you.’ He said he had no problem at all, the tests were all positive.”
Sanchez has scored nine goals for Arsenal so far this season and Wenger admitted it would be difficult to replace him, starting with this afternoon’s Premier League game against Sunderland. “You cannot say the player is a super player, and when he doesn’t play that you don’t suffer,” he said. “We have no Sanchez in any cupboard at the club. We have to compensate by finding different qualities.”
Wenger was confident about Sanchez’s recovery, but admitted that he would need time to rediscover trust in his pace. “Every injury gives you a bigger chance to be injured again,” Wenger said. “That is the biggest problem in our sport, you lose confidence in your body. I had players who, after two or three injuries, subconsciously refused to sprint.”
Arsenal’s injury list – what does it mean?
Sanchez, though, will be back long before Cazorla. The midfielder has gone to Spain to see Ramon Cugat, a knee specialist based in Barcelona. Cugat is credited with saving the career of Pep Guardiola, as well as Arsenal youth-teamer Jon Toral. He has operated on Xavi, Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas, and is now deciding whether Cazorla will need an operation to repair his knee.
“It could be a rupture,” Wenger said. “I have to wait until we have a complete assessment from the specialist. We know his lateral collateral ligament has been touched, he might have a capsular problem as well.” He is not expected back until April.
Cazorla injured his knee one minute into the second half last Sunday, but played the rest of the game after telling Wenger he could continue. “I don’t understand how he carried on, I saw he was not himself,” Wenger said. “But every time I said ‘Santi, are you all right?’ he said he was OK. Sometimes you don’t know how bad it is. He said he had a big pain but could play on.”
With Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny substituted after injuries, and Aaron Ramsey scheduled to play only 60 minutes, Cazorla had to continue. “He was even booked for diving when his knee let him down, because he could not change direction,” Wenger added.