Unai Emery challenged by Arsenal injury crisis
Background photo: Dick Elbers, CC BY-SA 4.0
With half the Premier League season gone, Arsenal sit two points adrift a top-four spot. The Gunners start compares favourably to their most recent efforts. After an unbeaten streak that stretched past 20 games, the Londoners hit a rough patch. Manager Unai Emery's been shorthanded of late. Injuries are thinning out his squad, especially in defence. Now that January is here, he can dip into the market to supplement his flagging roster.
It's a given Arsenal will concede a goal in every league game regardless of their opponent. Emery and the entire Arsenal backroom staff should be concerned. The manager has done well to position the team within reach of Champions League qualification. Tremendous work considering the imbalance between his attack and defence.
The rearguard isn't a disaster, more a work in progress. Bernd Leno is the long-term replacement for Petr Cech. He hasn't taken the No.1 shirt from the veteran yet but there is ample reason to assume he soon will. Sokratis Papastathopoulos is a very good addition to the defence, bringing solidity and confidence.
The same can't be said for the former Juventus right-back, Stephan Lichsteiner. Age is catching up to the 34-year-old. He can't match the pace of Premier League play. This is why bringing new players into the defence is so important. More bodies will counteract the growing injury crisis as well. Arsenal continues to fight on several fronts. While ousted from the EFL Cup by North London rivals Tottenham, the Gunners are in with a shout to win both the FA Cup and Europa League while continuing their pursuit of a top-four spot. Emery and Sven Mislintat's transfer business has built a solid foundation for the post-Arsene Wenger team. That said, work remains to be done. Beyond the defence, as well.
Matteo Guenduozi and Lucas Torreira contribute massively to the club. The young midfielders accrue experience with every outing. Torreira has become the lynchpin in the transition from defence to attack. Their presence could well be balanced by a rejuvenated Mesut Ozil. If the retired German international has given up on the Gunners too, a player like Ever Banega would be an astute buy. The Argentine is linked with a move to Arsenal. Emery knows the player from his Sevilla days. If the Rojiblancos' Liga hopes continue to fade, he might be available.
Injury is the Arsenal attacking line's bane. Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan contribute immensely to the attack, giving defenses problems to consider beyond Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Another natural winger will allow the team to continue spreading opposing defences and exploit gaps.
Many clubs are reluctant to buy in January because there is little time for prospective signings to settle. Needs must, however. Arsenal is bleeding and pressure must be applied to the wounds. January is a critical month for Unai Emery on and off the pitch.