The current status of Arsenal’s backline looks bleak, as influential center-back Per Mertesacker looks to miss the remainder of this year due to a recent injury.
The German veteran, in-line to succeed Mikel Arteta as club captain, picked up a serious knee injury which will keep him sidelined for several months. Now, Wenger has confirmed the fans’ worst fears: the World Cup winner won’t play until 2017.
According to the Metro, the long-serving French boss admitted that Mertesacker won’t take to the field for the remainder of 2016. Le Prof also lamented the big blow that is the 31-year-old’s absence, saying:
“I had Per on the phone two days after his surgery. He is highly motivated to come back strongly. He will be out for a few months. Is it three or four? I don’t know. Certainly I don’t count that Per will be back before the end of the year.
“We will miss him. He is a leader on and off the pitch. He is very well respected in the dressing room and gets everybody focused on targets. We lose a heavyweight in our dressing room.”
Although the north London giants still boast the almost always reliable Laurent Koscielny in their squad, Gabriel Paulista is yet to show consistency in the Arsenal starting eleven.
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Wenger confessed that he may look within his squad for Mertesacker’s replacement, but surprisingly it won’t be the Brazilian center back. Instead, Arsene identified Krystian Bielik – the young Polish defensive midfielder – as a player who could fill the gap whilst Per recovers.
“Bielik has all the qualities and ingredients to be a top level centre-back,” the French tactician was quoted as saying by Team Talk.
“The one thing he is missing is the experience in this position because he came to us as a central midfielder, but I converted him into a center-back because I felt he can play the type of football we want to play as a centre-back.”
Bielik, however, has little experience to suggest he will thrive in Arsenal’s defense, having made only one substitute appearance last season during a League Cup game. The Gunners do have Calum Chambers and the newly-signed Rob Holding, but both are yet to prove themselves at the top level.
A top new center-back is required before the transfer window closes.