Mikel Arteta could select an unorthodox Arsenal duo at centre-back on Monday night after usual pairing Ben White and Gabriel missed Sunday’s training session.
The Gunners travel to St James’ Park to face Newcastle United at 20:00. They must beat Eddie Howe’s side to go back into fourth spot after Tottenham’s 1-0 victory over Burnley on Sunday.
Arsenal’s last outing was a miserable one, as they lost 3-0 to north London rivals Tottenham away from home. That result ended their winning run and gave Spurs increased hope of snatching the final Champions League qualification spot.
To make matters worse, Brazilian centre-half Gabriel had to come off in the 76th minute due to a knock.
Arteta had White on the bench, but the 24-year-old wasn’t deemed fit enough to replace Gabriel due to his recovery from a hamstring problem.
Rob Holding will be unavailable for selection after his red card against Tottenham, too.
Of course, Arteta could have given White and Gabriel the day off to speed up their recovery time. But their fitness probably won’t be known until the squad travels to the north east.
Unusual pairing could deputise for Ben White and Gabriel
The report claims Granit Xhaka and Takehiro Tomiyasu may end up as centre-back partners if White and Gabriel miss out.
Tomiyasu should be relatively comfortable there given he made plenty of appearances in the heart of Bologna’s defence last season. This will be his first Premier League outing at centre-half, though.
It will be interesting to see how Xhaka does next to him if this selection becomes a reality.
The Switzerland midfielder may have his work cut out dealing with Callum Wilson or Chris Wood.
Ahead of the match, Arteta said: “We will have to modify certain positions to try to make it work. We don’t have more defenders.
“And even the academy players that we have, they haven’t experienced a lot in those positions because they are not specified central defenders, so it’s something we will try to find a way around.”
Arsenal fans will be hoping the lack of centre-backs doesn’t cost them in their hunt to make next season’s Champions League.
Meanwhile, a report claims Arsenal have agreed a deal to sign a Serie A starlet for between £17million and £21m.