The new Premier League season is very much upon us, though there has been a little twist in the EPL calendar owing to the Covid-19 interregnum. It would be recalled that a fortnight ago, the English Community Shied which is the game that heralds the beginning of the season was played between Liverpool, the EPL defending Champions and Arsenal, the FA Cup kings.
Arsenal will be opening their Premier League season with a visit to Craven Cottage, home of fellow Londoners, Fulham and it looks like the team is already depleted at the back. Quite surprising it sounds surprising as there are feelers from several quarters that Arsenal are well stocked in the defensive department with plethora of options to choose from.
In terms of numbers, Arsenal have plethora of options as the Gunners have 8 center backs currently on their books; Luiz, Mustafi, Sokratis, Holding, Chambers, Saliba, Gabriel and Mari but going into the game, how many are fit and available?
Pablo Mari is still out. The Spanish centre back Injured his ankle in the ill-fated clash against City at the commencement of Project Restart and has been out since then. Feelers from Arsenal treatment room show that the defender is recuperating well and would soon return to action but definitely not in time for the league opener. He is touted to return to training sometimes in September.
Shkodran Mustafi is another one out. The German injured his hamstring in last season’s FA Cup semi -final clash against Manchester City. He is also recovering well but probable date for return to training is still next month.
Calum Chambers ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament last December against Chelsea and has been out since then expectedly. He is tipped for a return to training before the end of the year.
Adding to the defensive injury woes is Brazilian defender, David Luiz. Reports have it that the former Chelsea and PSG man could be out of the London derby owing to a neck injury he aggravated in the Community Shield win over Liverpool. With that news, Arsenal are left with just 4 first team centre halves and two of them very new to the league while one is already on his way out to join Napoli which means playing him in the game could jeopardize the proposed switch to Naples.
Going into the game against Fulham, it seems Arsenal have realistically just three senior center backs available; Holding, Saliba and Gabriel. With this harsh reality, it is not surprising that Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta pulled plug on Holding’s proposed loan move to Newcastle.
In the Fulham game, Arsenal might be having a new defensive partnership of Saliba and Holding and Gabriel on the bench. Sentiments say there is never a good time to have injuries but reality check is that injuries are part of the game and the onus lies on the manager to make the most of the available squad to deliver optimum results.
Arteta needs to find a way to juggle the team to play at its optimum despite the injury blows. Injuries would not be a tenable excuse not to get a positive result from the game. The league is definitely a marathon and winning it or getting a top 4 finish starts with jumping out of the blocks.