Hector Bellerin’s injury has been well publicised, the right back picking up a recurrence of an ankle injury amidst public fitness worries. Unable to complete full training and forced to withdraw from Spain’s under 21 squad it seems as if Arsenal’s current injury woes are to continue.
The 21-year-old is the only outfield player to have featured in every minute of Arsenal’s Premier League campaign thus far and his absence will be felt. Since his debut Bellerin quickly adapted to physical rigours whilst continuing to embrace his attacking outlook. Bellerin is likely to miss the rest of November with no replacement particularly inspiring.
The most likely to plug the gap is Carl Jenkinson. The Englishman has only recently returned from a serious ligament injury which thwarted his loan progress, returning to action in early October. Jenkinson has since featured in the EFL Cup and in the Champions League when Bellerin was unavailable. Although not possessing the same athletic attributes as Bellerin or as alert defensively, Jenkinson would provide adequate if not slightly weak cover in what is a tough month ahead for the Gunners.
Another possibility is the emergence of Mathieu Debuchy from the shadows. The frozen out Frenchman has been used sparingly at best, playing just 512 minutes last season and none so far this. His Arsenal career has always been far from assured and his place in the pecking order is surely humbling, a return to the squad far from realistic.
Summer signings Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi could also be capable at covering the right back position. Holding featured at right back ten times for Bolton in his breakout season and has featured in a variety of defensive positions throughout his youthful career. His decision making with the ball and ample positioning, similar to Callum Chambers in many regards, means a fullback slot wouldn’t turn heads although a lack of pace and experience could prove problematic. Experience is something Mustafi provides playing right back frequently in his early career and given the responsibility of the role in the 2014 World Cup before injury however Mustafi has not played there since. His confidence and competence in the position make him more than capable of filling a Bellerin shaped hole.
A less viable option comes in the form of Francis Coquelin. The French midfielder has previous, filling in at both left and right back for Arsenal in the past, and would provide stout cover. Positioning may yet again be a worry for Arsene Wenger who might instead look to promote from within. Much like Bellerin himself, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a product of the Club’s academy and is more than proficient in a full back role. Although Wenger sees him more as a midfielder he can still drop back if needed much like in the EFL Cup tie against Nottingham Forest earlier on in the season, albeit when Jenkinson was unavailable.
With six plausible candidates for the vacant position it seems as if Carl Jenkinson is the most probable to get the job. A plethora of options but none quite so convincing, Arsene Wenger will be straining to get the balance right amid the notorious month of November.
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