Arsenal defender Rob Holding is set to be sidelined for the remainder of the season. The young center back had been a mainstay in the north London club’s defense prior to suffering a significant knee injury during the match against Manchester United last week. Player injuries never come at a good time, but Holding’s ACL rupture occurred at a particularly awful moment just as he was cementing himself as a regular fixture in Arsenal’s starting XI.
While the 23-year-old’s injury is certainly disheartening news to take for the Gunners, there are still sufficient options in the team’s defense moving forward. Center back, and captain, Laurent Koscielny has recently progressed nicely during his comeback from a serious injury of his own. The now 33-year-old defender ruptured his achilles tendon back in May and has yet to feature for the senior Gunners this season. Nevertheless, he has recently played two matches with the youth team and was named on the bench at the weekend against Huddersfield.
On his day, Koscielny was one of the more complete central defenders in the Premier League. Though now inching towards the autumn of his career, the France international can still be a quality asset to this Arsenal team. Along with Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi, Koscielny can be deployed in a back three, with Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac set up as wing backs.
With head coach Unai Emery favoring a back three as of late, he may even opt to pick Nacho Monreal as one of the trio of center backs. Sokratis, Mustafi, and Koscielny are all right-footed, which could present problems in certain cases. However, as Monreal is left-footed, he could slot into that left-sided center back position. The Spaniard has even filled this role before under former manager Arsene Wenger.
The Gunners also have Stephan Lichtsteiner and Konstantinos Mavropanos in defense as well. Emery chose Lichtsteiner, a right back, to round out the back three at the weekend and Mavropanos is currently training after recovering from an injury suffered towards the beginning of the season.
Emery can also opt to revert back to a flat back four with two of Sokratis, Mustafi, Koscielny, and Mavropanos to pick from. Although this could very well happen, Arsenal’s defensive frailties over the past few months could prevent this from occurring. However, the Spaniard did make this change at halftime during the team’s 1-0 victory over Huddersfield on Saturday. Sokratis and Mustafi were deployed as center backs, with Bellerin and Kolasinac as conventional full backs.
Arsenal also have the opportunity to bring in an additional defender during the upcoming January transfer period. While purchasing a world-class center back seems fairly unlikely, Sven Mislintat and company could very well choose to go with a young defender for the future. Whatever the Gunners decide to do in this department, there is certainly no time to panic just yet. There are still plenty of short-term options in defense.