Arsène Wenger has begun to scout the loan market for a left-back after Kieran Gibbs suffered a setback in his recovery from hernia surgery to deepen Arsenal's defensive crisis.
The manager has lost all four of his specialist full-backs, together with Johan Djourou, the centre-half who has provided cover at right-back of late, and Wenger will once again string four central defenders across his back-line for the trip to Aston Villa on Wednesday night. Ignasi Miquel, the 19-year-old Spanish centre-half, stands by to make his full Premier League debut at left-back.
Wenger had hoped Gibbs would be in contention for the Villa game, when the team intend to bounce back from the defeat at Manchester City on Sunday, but the medical bulletin brought further frustration. Gibbs, who has endured more than his share of injuries, last played in mid‑October.
Wenger's other left-back, André Santos, the summer signing from Fenerbahce, is out for three months with ankle ligament damage and on the right flank, Bacary Sagna (fractured fibula) and Carl Jenkinson (stress fracture in back) are also unavailable. Wenger did report "good news" on Sagna; the France international started running in training on Monday but Gibbs's setback, and the need to explore fresh options, preoccupied him.
Wayne Bridge, who is out of favour at City, is one player under consideration. The former England left-back does not figure in the City manager Roberto Mancini's plans – he has only played in one Carling Cup tie this season and he was loaned out for the second half of the last campaign to West Ham United. Another loan move might suit all parties.
"Gibbs sees a specialist and if something happens there, that he has had a real setback, then possibly yes," Wenger said, in answer to the question of an incoming January loan. "It is not a shop … you just take a good opportunity that is on the market when you can. Overall, that is what we are doing at the moment. We are starting to look at players if Gibbs is not back."
Wenger admitted that the situation was not ideal, with none of his centre-halves relishing playing at full-back or the different physical demands of the role, which raises their susceptibility to injury. Djourou damaged his groin at City and is out for three weeks.
"It's difficult," Wenger said, "because first of all we have centre-backs who do not like to play at full-back. We are a team who likes to go forward through the full‑backs so, of course, they are in a position where they have to produce different games.
"That is much more demanding physically. That exposes us even more to injuries, so I try to rotate people – one time right-back, one time centre-back. They do not use their positional play and do not get exposed too much physically [at centre-half] because we have nobody ready to come back. I can use Sébastien Squillaci, Ignasi Miquel, Francis Coquelin. Let's be frank and honest, no solution will be ideal because whatever we do, two players will have to play out of position."
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