Arsenal head to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea for their Saturday afternoon Premier League clash with Garry Monk’s Swansea under a cloud of uncertainty. The Gunners, who go into the game on the back of a League Cup humbling at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday, have to deal with a shortage of numbers to fill in on the right flank.
The loss at Hillsborough wasn’t as big a concern as the injuries suffered by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott were; injuries that will keep them out until after the international break. With Aaron Ramsey tearing his hamstring in Arsenal’s 2–0 win over Bayern Munich ten days ago, the Gunners suddenly find themselves with little to no options on their right-hand side.
Plenty cause for concern for manager Arsene Wenger, whose options on the right-side have now come down to the underused duo of Joel Campbell and Alex Iwobi. Wenger has ruled out dynamic midfielder Santi Cazorla out of the equation to fill in as a wide man, as he believes shifting the Spaniard from his central role leaves the Gunners vulnerable to losing control in central areas.
When asked about his right-sided options for the Swansea game in his pre-match press conference, Wenger said: “Campbell and Alex Iwobi. Santi can play there as well but he has become very important centrally. The problem sometimes is that you can destroy two departments if you move one player out. We control the ball better with Santi in the middle.”
It isn’t that Wenger will travel to Swansea with the highest levels of confidence. Last season, the Swans did a double over the Gunners, a first in their history, and the lack of any Premier League minute for both Campbell and Iwobi this season will make for an interesting read for Monk and his team of stats men.
Campbell has only seen 185 minutes of first-team action this season, mostly in the League Cup, while Iwobi made his first start this season only this week, against Sheffield Wednesday. That Wenger has two rookies lined up to replace the injured Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain is far from ideal, and is an obvious problem at a time when Arsenal could ill-afford any slip-up in the title race.
The young Hector Bellerin has enjoyed a productive season at right-back so far, and recent frequent changes ahead of him has made it an almost weekly ordeal to readjust and get in sync with different players lining up in front of him. Wenger and Arsenal are facing familiar injury-induced problems at an inopportune moment.
With the plucky Jefferson Montero expected to line up on Swansea’s left, Bellerin’s attacking threat might just be totally negated in the absence of the hard-working Ramsey or the effervescent Oxlade-Chamberlain. It will be interesting to see how Wenger tackles Arsenal’s current problem position of the right flank, as he could barely risk another setback following the Hillsborough defeat.