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Thursday 30 March 2017

Threadbare Arsenal set to start with young Guns

Sam Wallace

trying to second-guess the Arsenal team that will play on Saturday against Liverpool, once you take injuries and suspensions into account -- not to mention recent and impending departures -- is no simple task.

When Arsene Wenger sits down to discuss his options at his press conference tomorrow he will hope for some good news on those recovering from injury, because otherwise he is down to the bare bones.

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is on form and one of the few elements he doesn't have to worry about.

After that Wenger can juggle the back four to move Bacary Sagna to left-back, which allows Carl Jenkinson to make his first senior start for the Gunners in his preferred right-back position. Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny are fit at centre-back, but there is precious little cover.

In midfield it is trickier. Emmanuel Frimpong can step in for his full Premier League debut in place of the suspended Alex Song. Aaron Ramsey has been on good form and is fit.

But there is now little chance of Jack Wilshere playing again until Arsenal's home game against Swansea City on September 10. His ankle problem means he will miss the return leg against Udinese next week.

patchy

The most likely solution is to bring Andrey Arshavin back into that first bank of three midfielders. It is risky given his typically patchy record in tracking back, but needs must.

The front three? Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott are obvious starters but who occupies the third spot? Marouane Chamakh was woeful against Udinese, Gervinho is suspended and Tomas Rosicky was injured again on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Manchester City are reportedly close to finally signing wantaway midfielder Samir Nasri.

There is more than a strong suggestion that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the 18-year-old bought for £12m from Southampton this month, who has never played above League One level, might get his debut at the Emirates on Saturday.

If he did that would mean an Arsenal side with three teenagers making their first Premier League starts, with just 60 minutes' experience in the senior team between them.

Signing players will be the least of Wenger's short-term worries today. For all the encouragement he has had to spend money on players, Saturday will come down to how well he manages his existing, dwindling resources. (© Independent News Service)

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