Yesterday’s loss to Southampton in the League Cup highlighted, among other things, the sorry state of the Arsenal defence. While the loss of Bacary Sagna was compensated for by bringing in Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers, the sale of Vermaelen to Barcelona was a poor decision and the failure to replace him with anyone even more so.
And this is before the injury demon struck the Arsenal squad; Debuchy is out for three months with ligament damage, Monreal is still recovering from a bad back, and Chambers has only just returned to full fitness. This leaves the Arsenal backline in a very precarious position. One more injury, and it all falls apart.
This is why Wenger chose to rest his entire first choice backline for the Southampton game, and it turns out that it was some desperately needed rest. In the post match press conference, Wenger confirmed that Gibbs, who returned from injury just last week, is still not fully fit, and German center back Per Mertesacker is also carrying a bit of a niggle.
This is serious news, and an injury to either could dent Arsenal’s title challenge. If we lose Mertesacker, Chambers will have to be shifted into the middle, leaving the full back position for Hector Bellerin. While the Spanish youngster has potential, he is not yet ready for the full rigors of the Premier League. It is a similar case if Gibbs is unable to regain fitness in time for the weekend game against the Spurs; and with players like Andros Townsend reportedly fit to play, it is a worrying time for the Gunners faithful.
Here is what Wenger had to say regarding his defensive woes:
We are a bit short, yes because of the injuries we have. You sit there and you think Gibbs couldn’t play because of a slight problem, Mertesacker is a bit on the edge and then we have no choice.
Clarifying about Mertesacker:
Before the last game at Villa he had a little gluteus problem. He declared himself fit but at the moment we are so short that it’s difficult [to play him] with the games he plays. We have to play on Saturday against Tottenham and then an important game on Wednesday against Galatasaray and then we go to Chelsea. To absorb all these games without being rested when you have a little problem is very difficult.
Two crucial League games against rivals and a European fixture sandwiched between them makes for frightening reading. All three games will require Arsenal’s strongest team to start, and with Mertesacker carrying an injury, it becomes tough to see how he will be able to handle three fixtures a week.
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Wenger was quick to reassure fans that both Gibbs and Mertesacker would be available for the weekend game against the Spurs, but whether that is really the case remains to be seen.
They will be alright.
With the North London Derby coming up, we certainly hope so!