Is Santos loan risky business for Arsenal?

Arsenal left-back Andre Santos has joined Brazilian side Gremio on loan until the end of the season.

The 29-year-old has fallen down the pecking order at Arsenal after some defensively dismal displays and after upsetting Gunners fans at Old Trafford by swapping shirts with former teammate Robin van Persie at half-time.

However, first-choice Gunners left-back Kieran Gibbs is injured and could be out for at least another month. Arsene Wenger’s only January signing Nacho Monreal has made a decent start to his Arsenal career but is cup-tied for Arsenal’s imminent Champion’s League clash with Bayern Munich.

Meanwhile captain Thomas Vermaelen who has featured this season for Arsenal at left-back is also injured and, although his ankle injury is unlikely to be serious, there is as yet no date set for his return.

Whilst I understand that Gunners’ fans are likely glad to see the back of Santos, it’s a bit of a gamble on Wenger’s part letting him, along with fourth-choice centre-back Johan Djourou, go out on loan.

Arsenal have benefitted from having Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, and Per Mertesacker fit for almost the whole season so far. Wenger has had the advantage of being able to rotate his back four when necessary but, as their 1-0 victory at Sunderland proved, they don’t have enough cover for injuries.

Right-back Bacary Sagna was forced inside to play central defence and, although he put in a shift, played well and was adequate cover, Arsenal now have a shortage of options heading into the most crucial period of their season.

They have to hope that Vermaelen is fit and available for their clash with Bayern Munich next week as they now have just one recognized left-back in Monreal and he’s cup-tied for the occasion. Equally, moving Vermaelen wide means they now have one less centre-back. Currently only Per Mertesacker and Sebastian Squillaci are available.

The latter has played just one Premier League game in the last two seasons such is his manager’s faith in him or, rather, lack thereof. Laurent Koscielny is still recovering from a calf injury.

Meanwhile understudy right-back Carl Jenkinson was sent off against Sunderland and will miss Arsenal’s FA Cup game with Blackburn this weekend – a game which Sagna could have used a rest for, rather than played 90 minutes which he will now have to.

This weekend, Mertesacker and Sagna will likely both play 90 minutes, as will Monreal. They will then have to put in exceptional performances for 90 minutes against Bayern next Tuesday and hope that Kocielny and Vermaelen both recover from injury in time.

Whether Squillaci and or youngster Ignasi Miquel are involved against Blackburn this weekend remains to be seen but with such an important game coming up, I doubt that Wenger will want to risk his captain or Koscielny.

Whilst I can see why Wenger would want to offload both Santos’ and Djourou’s wages from his books, the timing of these two loan moves seems to be a little short-sighted.

Arsenal do not have enough cover for injuries and suspensions and whilst Arsenal fans really wanted to see Andre Santos play against Bayern, surely any left-back is preferable to no left-back.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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