Arsenal return to action this coming weekend, following the international break, though Arsene Wenger will most certainly have something to say on the matter that a string of senior defenders have returned from their respective countries with injuries.
Key duo, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac picked up knocks whilst away in the last week, with Mustafi picking up what seemed a serious muscular injury during Germany’s game against Azerbaijan.
Wenger confirmed in his press conference on Thursday morning that Mustafi would miss around 4-6 weeks, which wasn’t as bad as first feared, but still means that it is unlikely that he will feature in any of Arsenal’s games before the next international break.
Though, Kolasinac will have a late fitness test this week, Wenger confirmed, as he should hopefully be okay for Arsenal’s trip to Watford in the Premier League this Saturday.
The Gunners have three consecutive away games coming up spreading over eight days, with a trip to Watford on Saturday, followed by a trek to Serbia in the week when they take on Red Star Belgrade in the UEFA Europa League, and then ending the week on Sunday by heading up north to take on Everton.
Concerningly right now is that Arsenal’s only fit central defenders are Rob Holding, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal. With Laurent Koscielny a real doubt for Saturday evening also and Calum Chambers still on the mend from an injury sustained last month.
The last thing that Wenger would want is to only have three fit central defenders for three trips away from home in the space of just over a week. Also throw in to the mix that Mertesacker is in his final year of football before retiring at the end of the season, so it would be very demanding both physically and mentally on the German to play all three of these upcoming games.
Koscielny’s ongoing problems
It seems that Koscielny’s ongoing Achilles problem, which the Frenchman has been plagued with for the last few seasons, doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to a resolution.
Such an integral part of this Arsenal team is Koscielny, it is rather evident when he is missing from the side, as his leadership and quality is sorely missed. The centre-back will have a late fitness test this week to see whether he will be okay for the trip to Watford, which Wenger will be praying for some positive news on.
Koscielny has not yet featured in the Europa League this campaign, but he just might well need to if Wenger decides to include him in the squad that travels to Serbia on Thursday. Another dilemma faced by Wenger, as the last thing he would want is to set his star defender back even further.
Questionable transfer business?
Many eyes were raised when Arsenal decided to let Brazilian defender Gabriel leave for Valencia in the summer, especially when the club didn’t bring in a replacement. Though, it seems this decision has rather come back to haunt Wenger and the club once again.
The Gunners could have really done with Gabriel right now with Mustafi out for a good chunk of time, and also with Koscielny’s troubles with his achilles which doesn’t look like being cleared up anytime soon.
It may well be that we see a very youthful squad travel to Belgrade in the week when Arsenal take on Red Star. Fringe players such as Mathieu Debuchy might be called on as Wenger will look to scrape through this coming week with the hope of no more repercussions.