Arsenal supporters have yet another reason to fret about the upcoming Premier League season. While the club won its final pre-season friendly against Manchester City 3-2 Sunday, central defender Gabriel Paulista had to leave the pitch on a stretcher during stoppage time.The Brazilian’s injury tarnished what was otherwise an encouraging victory for the Gunners against the favorites for this season’s league title. Gabriel appeared to roll his ankle diving in to challenge Kelechi Iheanacho in the final moments of the friendly in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Wenger on the injury

After the match, according to Arsenal.com, manager Arsène Wenger said, “We have not even made a diagnosis in the medical room with our doctors or physios yet. I can’t tell you more. He’s in pain. Let’s hope the pain is not a sign of bad news. The only thing we have to know now is how big the damage is with his ligament.”

With Per Mertesacker out with a knee injury and Laurent Koscielny still in recovery after this summer’s Euro tournament, Gabriel was the only fit senior centre-back in the squad, paired with newly signed Rob Holding to start the match against the Manchester City attack. Now Wenger will have to make adjustments before the season opener against Liverpool next weekend.

Who will anchor the defense?

Calum Chambers seems a likely choice to start in the middle of the defense. Despite his youth, the utility defensive player has experience filling in at the position for the Gunners. The lack of senior centre-backs could, in fact, give Chambers the kind of opportunity right-back Héctor Bellerín seized when Mathieu Debuchy dislocated his shoulder in January 2015. Bellerín is now Wenger’s unquestionable first choice on the right and considered one of the league’s best defenders.

Wenger could give Holding a trial by fire. The 20-year-old was named the Bolton Wanderers player of the season in the Championship, despite making his first-team debut last August. Holding has some experience playing alongside Chambers, as the pair competed for the England Under-21 team in this summer’s Toulon Young Players’ Tournament in France.

Alternatively, Wenger could move Nacho Monreal inside from left back.

Kieran Gibbs affords Arsenal a solid alternative on the left, and Monreal has proved himself to be a serviceable central defender when injuries have forced Wenger to improvise.Eighteen-year-old Krystian Bielik offers another option, but the Polish U18 international’s inexperience makes him an unlikely candidate.

Arsenal’s defensive predicament by itself would be enough to make supporters nervous going into the Premier League opener against Liverpool, but the Gunners will also be without Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud.

The two attackers, like Koscielny, are still working back to match fitness in the wake of Euro 2016.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!
Click to read more