It’s safe to say although they grabbed a clean sheet, Arsenal’s defense struggled without both of their first-choice center backs during their 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Monday.
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It seems like Arsene Wenger’s men will once again be without Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker on Saturday against Newcastle United (7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) at St James’ Park.
Speaking to the media during his press conference on Thursday, Wenger confirmed that his captain Mertesacker is still suffering with illness, while Koscielny is having a test which will reveal the extent of the damage on his back.
“Mertesacker is still sick and we will know more about Koscielny today,” Wenger said. “He might have a test on his back today and I will certainly know more tomorrow morning. The less likely to be fit is Mertesacker.”
“I would like them to be available but that’s part of the season, you can’t complain about that.”
Gabriel and Calum Chambers stepped in to play center back and the latter certainly looked a little off the pace, especially in the first half as Liverpool his the crossbar through Philippe Coutinho, while he also had a superb shot tipped onto the post by Petr Cech and Arsenal’s goalkeeper made another stunning stop from close-range as Christian Benteke lost Gabriel and Chambers in the box.
If both Koscielny and Mertesacker miss out again, Nacho Monreal could come in to center back from left back and Kieran Gibbs may play at left back with Chambers’ shaky display a concern. Newcastle is a difficult place to go and as Aleksandar Mitrovic has showed so far in his opening three games for the Magpies, he will not give whoever plays in the heart of Arsenal’s defense a minute’s rest on Saturday.
With the Gunners accumulating just four points from their opening three games, losing two highly-experienced center backs who forged a formidable partnership over the past two years is not ideal.
Let’s see if Arsenal’s squad can deal with these spate of injuries to start the season as Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck are also missing from the squad.