Arsene Wenger will have to dip into his reserves to address the shortage of midfield players in the Arsenal first-team squad at the moment. The Frenchman believes Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi can provide cover in midfield during a crucial period of the season, which will see the Gunners competing in three different competitions.
Granit Xhaka is banned for four matches after being sent off against Burnley — his second of the season, Mohamed Elneny is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Egypt, Jack Wilshere is on loan at Bournemouth without a recall clause and Santi Cazorla is still a long way from recovering from his Achilles injury. This conundrum leaves Wenger with just two fit midfielders in Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin.
The Welshman has missed a good number of games already this season owing to hamstring issues, but looks to be getting back to full fitness after completing his third consecutive full 90 minutes against the Clarets. Coquelin is also coming back from a hamstring injury and will have to shoulder most of the burden in the defensive midfield department in the coming weeks.
Arsenal play three games in the next eight days in the FA Cup and Premier League, which includes a trip to Stamford Bridge on 4 February and Wenger will have to rotate his squad to keep them fresh. The manager has plenty of options in defence and attack, but it's the midfield that is giving him cause for concern.
The French coach, however, is hoping that the young players in the squad can provide cover for the next four games, by which time Xhaka and Elneny should be back in the squad.
"After [Coquelin and Ramsey], we have Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and Alex Iwobi can play in there although he's not a defensive specialist," Wenger told Arsenal Player ahead of their FA Cup fourth round clash against Southampton on Saturday (28 January). "Those are the options we have."