In a situation that could be described as “far from ideal”, Mikel Arteta is preparing for Monday’s match with Newcastle knowing his patchwork defence has further holes that need repairing.
Already without Kieran Tierney, the Gunners have lost Rob Holding to suspension and are currently sweating on the fitness of Ben White and Gabriel.
The former was fit enough to make the bench against Sp*rs on Thursday but, when push came to shove, not in good enough nick to risk when the latter went down with a muscular problem in the closing stages.
If the pair remain sidelined, the boss faces a headache deciding who to use alongside Takehiro Tomiyasu in the centre of defence. While there are youngsters waiting in the wings, it seems most likely Granit Xhaka will drop back from midfield although that creates further issues elsewhere.
“It’s a good question,” said Arteta when asked which defenders are fit ahead of the trip to St James’ Park.
“We will know probably more on Sunday, so we wanted to extend this period as much as possible to understand how they are recovering, how they are feeling, assess them and tomorrow probably we will know more about how they are.
He added: “We will have to modify certain positions to try to make it work, because we don’t have more defenders and even though we have academy players, they haven’t experienced a lot of those positions because they’re not specified central defenders, so it’s something that we’ll try to find a way.”
When he was pressed for further details on White and Gabriel, he continued: “I could [give you an estimate], but I will probably be telling you whatever!
“Sunday will be the day we will have better answers, probably not the answers that we want until matchday, but hopefully better answers.”