The Chalkboard: How Arsenal can cope with their centre-back shortage

Good news for those who miss the days of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal: Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny and Carl Jenkinson could all be included in the Gunners’ next Premier League match day squad.

The north London club’s current boss, Unai Emery, must negotiate the absences of Rob Holding (injury), Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis (both suspended) when it comes to selecting his side to face Southampton on Sunday. 

On the chalkboard

The aforementioned trio of centre-backs have all had plenty of game time this season, and have recently all been playing alongside each other since Emery has opted to line up with a back three.

None, though, shall be available to the Spanish coach for the forthcoming trip to St Mary’s Stadium. 

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Instead, Emery must construct the heart of his defence from the following selection of available players: senior left-back Nacho Monreal; very senior right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner; 33-year-old club captain Laurent Koscielny who has not played since rupturing his achilles; outcast right-back Carl Jenkinson; or inexperienced academy players such as Julio Pleguezuelo.

Considering the Gunners have a 21-game unbeaten run to protect, Emery has some big decisions to make.

An extra layer of protection

If he were to stick with a back three, a selection of Monreal, Koscielny and Lichtsteiner would perhaps be most likely. Those three have a combined age of 99.

Instead, Emery should revert to a back four, featuring Monreal and Koscielny – flanked by Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin – and use the extra man to bolster his midfield.

Deploying a midfield three of Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi would lend this makeshift rearguard a far greater measure of protection. It may not be Emery’s ideal choice of tactical setup, but it will at least prevent the Gunners from having their aged and under-played back line run ragged by the Saints.