Injuries are nothing new at Arsenal; every season has seen us lose key players in this manner. Who can forget last season, when a spate of injuries around the New Year dealt a blow to our title challenge from which we never recovered?
But what’s different about this season is that it is hardly a month old, and already injuries are thinning out the squad. Taking into account our involvement in several Cup competitions as well, this is a worrying thing. The major area of concern is our defensive line; with the sale of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona we only have two centre backs left. Also, a series of injuries to our full backs like Nacho Monreal and Mathieu Debuchy has put severe pressure on Wenger.
Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs, our two other full backs, are returning from injury themselves. Plus they, along with Mertesacker and Koscielny, cannot be expected to play every single game. With a minimum two fixtures every week, squad rotation is important. And this is where the youth players come in.
Hector Bellerin is obviously a player who will feature heavily over the course of the season. Since Calum Chambers will be expected to provide cover for Mertesacker and Koscielny, that leaves the right back position open for the Spanish youngster. Wenger trusted him enough to play him in the crucial European tie against Dortmund, and he turned in a solid performance. He will also probably feature in the game against Southampton today, and this will give him valuable match experience while also enabling us to see the youngster in action.
And he appears to be a rather exciting prospect; the youngster is noted for his blistering pace, he showed flashes of that against Dortmund. It is said that he broke the club record for a 40m sprint, a record held by the speedy Theo Walcott himself. If he is able to run with the ball at that pace, he is sure to be an asset during counterattacks and a constant thorn in the side of the opposition. Also, he can play a killer ball into the box, always a good thing for a wide player. His defensive game is rather good as well, and surely he can only get better with experience. This 19 year old is one player who could become an Arsenal regular in the years to come.
Another noteworthy youngster is Under 21 captain Isaac Hayden. A versatile player, he is capable of playing as a centre back or as a defensive midfielder. Arsenal are short of players in both these areas, and as such we may see the youngster feature in the first squad on a regular basis. He has already appeared for the senior team on one previous occasion, in a League Cup fixture against West Brom last year. Described by Arsene Wenger as cool, composed and committed, he may be exactly the player Arsenal need at the back.
Sometimes, great players are discovered due to injuries. This may be the moment for these Arsenal youngsters to shine in the absence of the bigger lights of the squad, and a few good performances may see them become first team picks themselves.