It’s been a problem position that’s needed filling for several years for Arsenal. And although Arsene Wenger looked to solve his centre-back issue in the summer, he’s now preparing to head into a pivotal month without Shkodran Mustafi, who faces roughly four weeks out on the sidelines.
But while on face value that puts the Gunners’ title hopes in doubt, there’s plenty of reasons to suggest Gooners can remain optimistic about their season, and Ladbrokes News have picked out just three of them.
There’s quality in depth
What Arsenal need right now is a quality, if not like-for-like replacement to step into Mustafi’s boots.
Step forward, Gabriel.
The Brazilian defender is more than capable of doing a job alongside Laurent Koscielny, and has only lost four Premier League games in the three seasons which he’s been with the club.
Aggressive, relatively quick, and more than confident on the ball, the 26-year-old is also used to playing alongside Koscielny, meaning he should fit straight in.
And the options behind Gabriel aren’t too bad, either, with Per Mertesacker nearing a return and Rob Holding impressing whenever called upon.
Bellerin’s return has come at the perfect time
It’s Gabriel who’s been covering for Hector Bellerin in recent weeks, and things could have been a lot worse had the Spanish right-back been out any longer. Suddenly, that would have left the Gunners worryingly short at the back, with Mathieu Debuchy also injured.
But the 21-year-old’s return has come at the perfect time, as his short-term replacement can shift back into the position he knows best.
Though he didn’t look 100 per cent against Stoke after coming on to replace Mustafi at the weekend, the 65 minutes in which he featured will no doubt stand him in good stead to return to his best over the next few games.
The fixture list has been generous
Granted, they’ve got a tricky fixture away at Manchester City before Christmas, but other than that, the festive period has thrown up a decent run of games for the Gunners.
Up next for Arsenal is a trip to Everton, who’ve won just one of their last 10 Premier League games, and that’s followed by the City game, before they face a trio of fixtures against West Brom, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth.
Mustafi should be approaching full fitness after the game against the Cherries, and that’ll be great news for Gooners heading into 2017.
But what do the fans think? Will Mustafi’s absence be a huge loss for Wenger? Or is there plenty to suggest the squad will be just fine without him?
Have your say in the comments section below!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing