Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has ruled out the possibility of rushing Laurent Koscielny back for Sunday’s Premier League opener against Liverpool, leaving him with only a trio of young centre-backs to choose from for the game.
Arsenal have lost Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista to injuries in preseason, leading to some speculation that he could be forced to bring Koscielny into the team even though the France defender only returned to training this week after his post-Euro 2016 break.
But Wenger said his only options against Liverpool at the Emirates will be 21-year-old Calum Chambers, 20-year-old Rob Holding and 18-year-old Krystian Bielik.
“We lost basically three centre-backs because we have Mertesacker, Gabriel and Koscielny, who is not ready, who are out of the game,” Wenger said on Friday at his news conference. “I have a few options that you have seen in preseason. That is basically the players we have available at the moment, who are quite young but have a great desire to do well.”
Of those three, Chambers is the only one with Premier League experience but he was basically Wenger’s fourth-choice as centre-back last season. Holding was brought in from Championship side Bolton Wanderers this summer, while Bielik joined the academy last year as a holding midfielder but has been converted to a defender.
Wenger also has the option of moving Nacho Monreal into the middle and playing Kieran Gibbs at left-back. But both Holding and Bielik impressed during preseason and Wenger said he thinks the new signing from Bolton is ready for the Premier League.
“He has played in the Championship, so that is a good experience — to play centre-back in the Championship — to deal with one level higher,” Wenger said.
Arsenal are in talks over the signing of Germany defender Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia, but Wenger had already said earlier in the week that he does not expect to make any new signings in time for the Liverpool game