Arsenal’s Defensive Injury Crisis May Force Club To Spend

Arsenal's Defensive Injury Crisis May Force Club To Spend  -
SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 16: Hector Bellerin of Arsenal receives treatment for an injury during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Arsenal FC at St Mary’s Stadium on December 16, 2018 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

What would a Premier League season be without an injury crisis at Arsenal? This campaign is no different and, as the clubs prepare for a busy festive season, Arsenal’s defensive injury crisis is neatly in place.

As far as centre-halves go, Rob Holding is out for the balance of the season, Shkodran Mustafi‘s availability is in question and Konstantinos Mavropanos has yet to train with the first team this year.

Out wide, Hector Bellerin will miss a few weeks at least and Sead Kolasinac picked up his second injury of the campaign over the weekend.

All this means a defensive January signing may be a priority.

Aversion to Winter Window

Many things have changed at Arsenal this season; new manager, new executives, new coaches and a few new players. However, one thing hasn’t changed; the club’s aversion to spending in January.

Raul Sanllehi, the club’s Head of Football, sat down with David Ornstein in October and espoused his thoughts on the winter window,

“I’m not a strong believer of the winter window, normally it’s used for emergency cases when things don’t go the way you planned in the summer window. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to use it, I don’t know yet, it’s early in the process.

“If things go as planned, the winter window should not be as relevant as the summer window. First, we need to know what the needs could be, what opportunities are in the market. We’re not actively looking into that.”

Of course, this was said in the midst of what would become a 22-match unbeaten streak. It also came before Arsenal’s defensive injury crisis made its annual visit.

What’s Changed?

Sanllehi is certainly not the winter window’s biggest fan, however, the man himself said January is for emergency situations.

After a loss to relegation battlers Southampton which featured a makeshift back three including a midfielder, a fullback and an ageing centre-back who recently returned from a long-term injury, it certainly feels as though an emergency is just what the club have got.

This is especially true should Unai Emery continue with the back three. As it stands now the club has just Sokratis and Koscielny fit, although there are questions over the latter.

Mustafi should return soon, however, his inconsistencies would make that a bittersweet comeback. So too should Mavropanos, but his inexperience and lengthy layoff make him a less than ideal candidate to steady the ship.

Now even the fullback positions are lacking in depth. Bellerin left the pitch at St. Mary’s in the first half on Sunday, with Lichtsteiner following suit in the second.

On the left, Monreal has recently returned from an injury absence and Kolasinac is now entering one.

The Rebuild

Another inconvenient truth is that this Arsenal club is in the midst of a rebuild. While Arsenal’s defensive injury crisis is very real, the need to build the squad for an eventual title challenge can’t be ignored.

Therefore, despite the temptation to sign a veteran to sure up the back, the Gunners may have to sacrifice in the short term in order to benefit in the future.

For example, Gary Cahill would be an easy signing as he is unhappy with his lack of selection at Chelsea. However, at age 32, he wouldn’t be a factor perhaps even as soon as next season.

Arsenal would also have to balance short-term spending with long-term sustainability. As clubs generally do not like to sell in January, the perfect candidate may be difficult to sign.

Eric Bailly, for example, would probably fit the bill as far as the ideal January signing. However, not only would Manchester United want to recoup their £30m investment, but they would also hate to sell to a domestic rival.

Even if the Gunners have the ability to spend like that big in January, it may be more prudent to wait until the summer, when clubs are more amenable to selling.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

That’s just where Arsenal’s defensive injury crisis may leave the club. With so many questions around the club’s January plans, finding the perfect answer is very difficult.

However, considering the success of the summer window, fans should trust that Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi will make the correct decision and balance both the present and future of the club.