By Chris Harris
Thomas Vermaelen will not play again this season.
The Belgian centre back has been sidelined since September after suffering an Achilles injury while on international duty. Vermaelen eventually recovered from that but has since been troubled by another tendon problem and, despite having surgery to correct it, he will not pull on an Arsenal shirt before the current campaign finishes.
“For Thomas Vermaelen the season is over,” confirmed Arsène Wenger at his pre-match press conference.
“In fairness he has not played since September, I never expected him to be fit before the end of the season. He is not out on the field yet and it is impossible [for him to play] after six months without competition. I am confident he will have a full recovery but for this season we cannot rely on him.”
The manager also set the record straight on Johan Djourou’s fitness. The centre back was ruled out for the season immediately after dislocating his shoulder at Manchester United but, during the week, the Swiss FA claimed that he could return to action in time for next week’s international break. According to Wenger, the accurate prognosis is somewhere in between.
“Johan Djourou is out for at least six weeks,” he said. “There’s a little chance [he will play again this season], he has an arthroscopy on Monday and we will know more about the damage in his shoulder. We hope we will have good news but no matter what happens he will be out for six weeks.”
Nicklas Bendtner could be back in the squad after missing the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford through illness. But Wenger will also be without Alex Song (knee), Abou Diaby (groin), Wojciech Szczesny (finger), Lukasz Fabianski (shoulder), Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) and Theo Walcott (ankle) at the Hawthorns.
“Cesc Fabregas is out for the game on Saturday,” said Wenger. “He should be back after the international break, maybe, he has a chance, but he is not available for the weekend. Walcott is not available for the weekend and he has no chance [for the international break]. He is not available for England.”Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 17 Mar 2011