Arsenal boss Unai Emery working on plan to solve centre-back crisis

Arsenal manager Unai Emery is pleased to see Laurent Koscielny back in their win over Qarabag.
Arsenal maintain their unbeaten run after an acrobatic finish from Lucas Torreira.

LONDON — Arsenal coach Unai Emery has said he is not worried about the team’s centre-back crisis for Sunday’s game against Southampton, and is confident he has players who are ready to step up in the position.

His side could be without a single natural centre-back for the game at St. Mary’s as Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are both suspended, while Rob Holding is out with a long-term injury. Laurent Koscielny made his first appearance of the season in the Europa League on Thursday, but Emery is still unsure if the club captain can play a second game just three days later.

That means at least one full-back or midfielder could have to play in central defence, with left-back Nacho Monreal probably the most likely candidate.

“We are going to see for Sunday,” Emery said. “We don’t have Mustafi, we don’t have Rob Holding, we don’t have Sokratis, but I believe in my players and I think we can use another player like a centre-back.

“I have one idea in my mind, but we need to work Friday and Saturday [in training] and also to know how is the recovery physically for Laurent, for the possibility that he can help us Sunday. But I think every player [is] now OK for helping us in the position we need.”

Emery used right-back Carl Jenkinson as a centre-back in their previous Europa League game, while fellow full-backs Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sead Kolasinac could also be options if Emery plays with a back three.

Midfielder Mohamed Elneny was also used as a centre-back by Arsene Wenger at times last season.

Arsenal could get one injury boost, though, as Emery said Aaron Ramsey is expected to be available again after recovering from an ankle injury.

“We think so, yes,” Emery said. “The doctor said to me he thinks [Friday] and Saturday he can train and can be OK for Sunday.”

Southampton are 19th in the Premier League, but Emery warned that their position is misleading, and he expects new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl to have an immediate impact.

“I watched matches with Southampton, and they have very good players with good quality, and for me it is a surprise they are in this position in the table,” Emery said.

“They changed the coach, but they have the same players and they are going to change things with the new coach [and will] improve I think.

“We know Sunday is a very difficult match for us, and they are going to play with their supporters and also pushing a lot against us because they need to win for the three points. But for us it’s also very important.”

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