Gabriel injury throws Arsenal into crisis ahead of opener

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Arsenal are facing the prospect of beginning their Premier League campaign without an experienced centre-back, after Gabriel was stretchered off in the north Londoners’ pre-season friendly against Manchester City.

Per Mertesacker is a long-term absentee with a knee injury, while Laurent Koscielny has been given an extended period of rest after his Euro 2016 exertions.

That meant Gabriel was in line to slot in at the heart of the Gunners defence against Liverpool next weekend, but suffered a nasty ankle injury in Gothenburg and had to be stretchered off.

The Brazilian left the stadium in a protective boot and on crutches, and is certain to miss out on the season curtain-raiser at the Emirates.

That trio of absentees means Arsene Wenger will have to call on Calum Chambers, who only played 315 Premier League minutes last term, and Rob Holding to marshal the backline against the Reds.

Chambers was trusted to make just two top-flight starts during 2015/16, while Holding was part of the Bolton side that were relegated from the Championship before moving to the Gunners this summer.

It isn’t just at the back where Arsenal will be short. Both Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud are yet to return to club training following their Euro 2016 campaigns, while Jack Wilshere has also suffered a pre-season knee injury.

Throw in knocks to Danny Welbeck and Carl Jenkinson and the north Londoners’ squad is verging on threadbare before the campaign has even begun.

As a result, taking 21/10 about Liverpool for their trip to the Emirates could be worth an investment on the opening weekend. However, the Reds have injury issues of their own.

Seven of Jurgen Klopp’s squad currently have fitness questions, including James Milner, Daniel Sturridge, Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho.

The Gunners are 5/4 to beat Liverpool on Sunday, with the draw 23/10.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.