Wilshere lay-off could force Wenger’s hand

Frank Dalleres
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ARSENAL could be forced to dip into their estimated £40m transfer reserves during the January transfer window after England midfielder Jack Wilshere was ruled out for three months.

Wilshere underwent surgery yesterday following an assessment from a specialist after damaging ankle ligaments during Saturday’s Premier League defeat to Manchester United.

His absence is compounded by another injury to Mikel Arteta, the Gunners’ first choice defensive midfielder who was forced off during Wednesday’s win over Borussia Dortmund with a calf problem.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted after the Champions League match that Arteta’s injury “looks serious”. The loss of the Spaniard for a prolonged spell would leave Wenger with just Mathieu Flamini to cover the position in front of a fragile back four.

Wilshere has excelled in a similar role for England this season, notably in last week’s defeat of Scotland. The 22-year-old’s injury is not the same ankle that has caused previous lay-offs, though this is already the 19th fitness-related break of his nascent career.

France midfielder Abou Diaby, who has had even worse luck with injuries, could be used in a deeper role, but is currently sidelined.

Wenger has previously tried without success to sign Germany enforcer Lars Bender from Bayer Leverkusen and was credited with interest in Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho last summer.

Should he wish to bid for either man when the transfer window reopens in less than five weeks he would have at least £40m at his disposal, according to a study by the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis denied at last month’s AGM that the club was “hoarding a vast cash balance”, blaming “inaccurate analysis”. However, he said the club did “keep a reasonable amount for the transfer budget”.