No Koscielny means a real defensive headache for Arsenal ahead of season-opener

Arsene Wenger is facing a real predicament as he prepares for Sunday’s season-opening match in the Premier League against Liverpool.

Brazilian Gabriel looks set to be out for up to eight weeks with damaged ankle ligaments, Per Mertesacker is sidelined until Christmas through injury, and Laurent Koscielny has been ruled out by the boss as he has only just returned to full training.

That leaves Mr Wenger without a senior centre back to call on ahead of what will likely be a blood-and-thunder encounter against a hard-working Liverpool side under Jurgen Klopp.

Given the general underwhelming performance shown by the Gunners at home last season, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, and really does beg the question: How was it allowed to come to this?

It looks as though a deal for Shkodran Mustafi will be finalised in the next week but that is not like to help us in the short term, least of all against Liverpoool.

In his press conference ahead of Sunday’s clash, Wenger hinted at selecting from some of the players who have been on show during pre-season, which includes Callum Chambers, Krisitan Bielik and new arrival Rob Holding.

Although Chambers has had a certain amount of game time with the first team, he is still far from the finished product, while Bielik and Holding have almost no Premier League experience between them.

I can’t help but fear that it is that very inexperience that Herr Klopp and his team will be focussing on as they finalise their plan for the upcoming fixture.

Going forward, I have seen enough of Arsenal in pre-season to feel comfortable that we can at least create chances as well, if not better, than we have done in recent seasons. We have, as ever, struggled to put those chances away, but we can’t bemoan a lack of endeavour.

What is concerning is our ability to keep Liverpool out. They are almost certain to be pressing hard from the outset, not giving our players any time on the ball, while swarming forward in numbers when they win back possession.

Will a defensive partnership as raw as Bielik and Holding be capable of reading developing situations, will their positioning be up to the task, and is their communication good enough to allow them to work as a partnership?

In all likelihood, Arsene will opt for Nacho Monreal, or Matthieu Debuchy, at centre back, together with Callum Chambers. Kieran Gibbs will more than likely slot in at left back to cover, or Debuchy will simply come into the defence at centre back.

And, who knows, it may work superbly well. Debuchy may be so intent on proving himself having lost his place last season that he may excel. Monreal and Gibbs might work so well together that they are mistaken for 1980s pop act Bros – or perhaps not.

What is clear is that Arsene is being forced to take a bit of a gamble with his tactics this weekend, or perhaps even next weekend, as he dare not risk a less-than-fit Koscielny or Mustafi picking up an injury to further add to our woes.

After a pretty decent pre-season campaign, it is a million miles from the sort of start to the season that we wanted.

With the Mustafi deal yet to be done, and no sign of a new striker being signed (I mean, barely even a sniff) a defeat in the opening game could create a really minging atmosphere around the ground, and we all know how badly that hampered the team last year.

It’s going to be a tense watch.





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