Arsenal’s 5-0 win over Crystal Palace was marred by record signing Declan Rice limping off with injury. The Gunners were already three goals up and crusing when 73 minutes in, the midfielder gestured to the bench and was duly replaced by Jorginho.
And concerningly for both Mikel Arteta and home fans, Rice seemed to mouth the word ‘hammy’ to a teammate as he trudged off, implying he had picked up a hamstring injury. It’s not the only fitness worry for Arsenal, with centre-back Gabriel also in apparent discomfort as he was subbed off with nine minutes left.
“Declan was feeling something, a sensation in the hamstring, so we didnt want to take any risks at 3-0,” Arteta told TNT Sports afterwards. “The other one with Gabby, he had a tackle and a knock on his knee so he also went off.”
When asked if either injury appeared serious, he simply replied “I hope not.” The club now don’t play again until January 30 when they host Nottingham Forest in the Premier League. But any long-term problem for Rice could prove pivotal with Arsenal hosting Liverpool on February 4 before a trip to West Ham.
The first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Porto also takes place next month. And with the perception hanging over Arteta that his squad lacks the strength in depth to maintain a title challenge, he’ll be desperate to have Rice, 25, regularly available.
Otherwise, it could sour what proved a routine win for the hosts against a beleaguered Palace side. It was Gabriel who nodded Arsenal in front 11 minutes in, and eight minutes before the break his header across goal deflected in off away keeper Dean Henderson, who was adjudged to have scored an own goal.
Leandro Trossard went clean through and finished cooly to make it 3-0, before Gabriel Martinelli came off the bench to seal the rout in injury time. He twice found the bottom corner as the Gunners bounced back from their back-to-back league defeats against West Ham and Fulham.
The three points took Arsenal back up to third in the table, and just two points off leaders Liverpool. However, the Reds can take that gap back up to five on Sunday when they visit Bournemouth.
Despite being linked with a string of players in the January transfer window, Arteta also reiterated the club were not posied to make any big money moves. After spending £200million in the summer the north London club are hampered by Financial Fair Play restrictions.