Arsenal manager Unai Emery could be without a host of key defensive players for Saturday’s huge Premier League clash with Liverpool at the Emirates.
Heading into the weekend the Gunners sit fourth in the table, four points behind their next league opponents, who themselves are unbeaten and level with Man City.
The Reds have enjoyed an exceptional start to the season, but with their results mirroring those of Pep Guardiola’s City, who have scored seven more and conceded one fewer, the pressure is still on.
With a journey down to the capital to come on Saturday, victory over Arsenal would give Liverpool a welcome boost as they look to keep up with the leaders.
And just as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are recapturing top form in front of goal, Emery’s side are lacking numbers to shield theirs.
The north London club provided a comprehensive injury update on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of their League Cup fourth-round clash with Blackpool.
Arsenal have therefore confirmed that centre-backs Laurent Koscielny and Dinos Mavropanos and defensive midfielder Mohamed Elneny remain out, while Hector Bellerin is a doubt for Saturday.
His fellow full-backs Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal are both being assessed ahead of the visit of Blackpool, with concerns over their hamstring problems suggesting they could also miss out at the weekend.
Petr Cech and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are back fit, however, and could provide cover in goal and at left-back respectively.
The Gunners’ last outing saw Emery field Granit Xhaka as an emergency left-back, with Rob Holding partnering Shkodran Mustafi at centre-back, while Stephan Lichtsteiner replaced Bellerin at right-back at half-time.
Their opponents, Crystal Palace, secured a 2-2 draw courtesy of two penalties from Luka Milivojevic, with Mustafi criticised by Arsenal fans on social media for conceding the first:
He'd been playing really well of late. Really well. But that is completely brainless from Mustafi.
— James Benge (@jamesbenge) October 28, 2018
Mustafi firing shots at Wenger saying Wenger didn’t tell him what to do, mate, you don’t need someone to tell you to don’t two foot an opposition player that is back to goal in your own box. Really lacking some brain cells there.
— Spanish Gooner (@elspanishgooner) October 28, 2018
Mustafi’s goal celebration is an Eagle, Palace’s crest is an Eagle. Mustafi just gave penalty away to Palace. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
— Aubazettes (@Aubazettes) October 28, 2018
I love the way that Mustafi thinks the 6 yard box is a perfectly acceptable place to leap into a tackle, but when there’s a dangerous counter on the half way line he suddenly decides not to.
— Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) October 28, 2018
Meanwhile, though there was controversy surrounding the decision to award Palace their second spot-kick after Xhaka’s challenge on Wilfried Zaha, the Swiss later admitted it was a “clear penalty.”
Arsenal have certainly been excellent going forward this season, scoring 24 goals in 10 league games—second only to City (27)—but they have struggled defensively.
They have conceded more than three times the amount of goals as Liverpool (13 to four), and at least five more than any other side in the top five.
Their last clean sheet in the top flight came at home to Watford over a month ago, shipping goals against Fulham, Leicester City and Palace since.
Without the likes of Monreal and Koscielny, they have struggled to find stability at the back, and this could only worsen with Emery forced to field players out of position.
The prospect of an in-form Mane going up against a 34-year-old Lichtsteiner, and Salah against Xhaka or Maitland-Niles on the opposite flank, should be a mouthwatering one for Liverpool fans.
However, the Reds aren’t without their own fitness problems, with Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita both doubts for Saturday due to hamstring injuries, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a long-term absentee.