Arsene Wenger confirmed earlier today that Nacho Monreal, who was substituted just 26 minutes into the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, could miss up to four games with an “inflamed back.”
Monreal has a history of back trouble, missing a total of 18 games from 2012-2013 to 2014-2015 due to back injuries. While this current ailment doesn’t appear to be too serious, a back injury at 31 years old, especially for someone who’s had issues there in the past, has to be a worrying moment for Monreal.
Monreal’s injury has to be a worrying moment for Wenger as well. Monreal has arguably been Arsenal’s most consistent defender this season, and also somehow the club’s third-highest scorer??
Wenger will either turn to Sead Kolasinac or Ainsley Maitland-Niles to replace Monreal on the left side of the defense. If Wenger opts to stick with three at the back, which he used in the final last weekend, then Kolasinac is the likely replacement. Yet, using three at the back on Sunday seemed like a tactical decision based just on Manchester City, as Wenger has stayed away from that formation since the 2-1 loss to Bournemouth on January 14th. Wenger has been hesitant to use Kolasinac in a back four this season, which prompted Maitland-Niles’ run at left-back in December. So, should Arsenal return to a standard back four, Maitland-Niles, who hasn’t played a minute in the Premier League, let alone a minute in defense, since the 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on January 20th, could be Wenger’s choice.
Either way, Arsenal will be losing out on some defensive competence for the next handful of games, something they don’t have much of already.