Who to choose, who to choose?
As Arsenal prepare for their second match of the restart, they already look to face squad fitness and availability problems. After Pablo Mari went down hurt in the 20th minute against Manchester City with a season-ending ankle ligament/tendon injury and David Luiz followed that with an unimpressively short appearance resulting in an error leading to goal, a penalty concession, and a red card that will see him suspended for the weekend — Arsenal are somehow running out of natural center back options to select from.
In fact, they are essentially left with Mustafi, Holding, and a debut appearance from their youth squads to choose from. Sokratis is reportedly still hurt from a knock he picked up in training and Calum Chambers has only just returned to light trainings but is still months away from a serious return after his torn ACL.
Arsenal are capable of playing someone out of position to fill the void if Arteta has serious doubts over the capabilities of a Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi pairing, of course. While it is nowhere near ideal, Kieran Tierney filled the role against City after Luiz went off and Bukayo Saka slid back into the left back role and they could be called into action again. It’s the first time Tierney has played the central role for Arsenal, but not the first time in his career having played there for Celtic on several occasions.
Early problems like this will certainly give Arsenal fans a stress headache as they attempt to keep themselves away from the ledge, fearing the long, aggravating finish to this season that may be a head of them.
Arenal’s 2nd matchup with Brighton Hove & Albion is likely to look very different from the first fixture back in December but will be far from easy. In round one, Freddie Ljungberg walked into the stadium for his first ever match at the helm inside the Emirates. The fans were noticeably behind him, Emery had been sacked, and the team was ready to put on a different performance. However, it wasn’t to be. The workrate was there, but Ljungberg was not yet able to solve the gaping hole in Arsenal’s defense with the limited resources at his disposal.
Arsenal were sloppy in possession, poor at clearing their lines and dealing with the danger. The Brighton midfield looked dominant over Arsenal’s center on their way to outpossessing the Gunners and creating 20 shots in the process. A 2-1 win gave Brighton their 4th straight match against Arsenal without losing (2W, 2D).
While Arsenal have looked better under Arteta, besides their most recent game, he says grimacing awkwardly, its worrisome to think that clearing their lines was a problem in the first game and now they may have an awkward gap at the back. In addition to the awkward pairing of Holding and Mustafi that is likely, the absence of Granit Xhaka will present a problem when it comes to covering the backline and allowing the midfield to expand. By all accounts, Torreira won’t be ready for this game either, but we are awaiting word on that. If Torreira is not available, we may see another Ceballos, Guendouzi pairing in the midfield.
Arteta will have had only three days to prep his team for this match, versus Brighton’s 100-plus days. Yesterday, Arteta gave his brief thoughts on Graham Potter and Brighton, complimenting them on the way they are performing.
Lots for Arteta to think of during sleepless nights, pondering the defense. I’ll leave it there for this one and try to offer a more comprehensive look at Brighton v. Arsenal soon. Stay safe, stay well.