Four from within and four from other clubs, what route will Arsene Wenger take in the short and long term future of the first XI's midfield?
Arsenal's worsening injury problems have hit one of their most influential players of last season, Mikel Arteta, as boss Arsene Wenger confirmed at a press conference earlier today, Friday, that the Spaniard would be a certainty to miss the club's opening Premier League game against Aston Villa and may not return to first-team duty for six weeks.
'It could be as long [as six weeks] but honestly we don't know yet,' the Frenchman, yet to become an active player in the summer transfer market, is quoted to have said by the club's official website. 'We have to check the severity with the doctor.'
All Gunners fans have been longing for this summer is the recruits necessary that would act as a springboard for a title-chasing team in the Premier League, however, once again they top a league that they have become all too familiar with in the past half-decade; the injury league table.
Currently atop with 11 players occupying the physio's room, Arteta is the latest addition to a list that already includes Tomas Rosicky, Bacary Sagna, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey (who are, however, expected to make returns for the Villa match), while Yaya Sanogo, Ryo Miyaichi, Nacho Monreal, Thomas Vermaelen, Emmanuel Frimpong and Abou Diaby are all two weeks to six weeks away.
Who, though, will replace the visionary, deep-lying maker of plays that was and is Arteta? Diminutive attack-minded Santi Cazorla will likely play the more forward facing role in a midfield three, despite his lengthy inclusion in an international fixture for Spain that included jet-lag potential having returned from Ecuador mid-week.
Wenger has four immediate options for the two positions slightly behind Cazorla.
- Aaron Ramsey: in a more natural central role rather than the wing position he has been utilised in, in order to continue his all-round development. Ramsey played some of his best football filling in for Arteta last season, but was arguably better playing alongside Mikel.
- Jack Wilshere: has had the benefit of a full pre-season and therefore should enjoy consistency (something he lacked last year) in the coming season if he has the benefit of regular games.
- Tomas Rosicky: sparingly used at the beginning of 2012-13 but grew into a commanding presence in the latter half, Rosicky was an asset at both ends of the park.
- Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain: regarded as more of an attacking outlet, the Ox has featured in a central role but lacks the experience of Rosicky, and even the aforementioned British duo.
Post-Villa, Wenger, if he is to appease the frustrations of Arsenal fans who are getting as used to missed or lost targets as Manchester United are with David Moyes, will need to work hard alongside Ivan Gazidis to secure signatures prior to the closure of the summer window.
There is still a physical beast potentially available in Marouane Fellaini, even though the versatile Belgium international's release clause in his Everton contract expired a fortnight ago. Another defender/defensive midfielder with a monstrous height is Federico Fazio, the twice-capped Argentina international on Sevilla's books.
Arsenal could also consider an attempt to lure Real Madrid's deep-lying midfielder Xabi Alonso to London, a player who was instrumental in Liverpool's cup successes during his time at Anfield.
Meanwhile, Olympique Lyonnais mainstay Maxime Gonalons has already seen his name associated with a move to Ashburton Grove. Lyon, though, are as renowned to drive as hard a bargain as FC Porto.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald