Arsenal head coach Unai Emery admits he may be forced to add a central defender to his January shopping list.
The Gunners are without a host of centre-backs and look like heading to Southampton on Sunday with only one recognised fit defender in recently returned Laurent Koscielny.
The club captain has been missing since May with a serious Achilles injury, although Emery has revealed the 33-year-old is due to start Thursday’s Europa League dead-rubber at home to Qarabag.
The hope will be Koscielny can come through that and then take his place in the defence at St Mary’s, with Konstantinos Mavropanos and Rob Holding injured, Shkodran Mustafi struggling with a hamstring problem and Sokratis Papastathopoulos suspended.
With so many dilemmas at the back, Emery looks set to have to play a full-back out of position, with Stephan Lichtsteiner and Nacho Monreal capable of filling in.
But he also conceded the club could look into recruiting a defender when the transfer window opens – with both Chelsea’s Gary Cahill and Eric Bailly of Manchester United recently linked with a move to the Emirates.
“I think if we can take one player to help us at centre-back, I think it’s a good option,” Emery said.
“The transfer (window) is not easy…Koscielny is coming back and for the team it’s very important he is coming back.
“Then we are going to wait and see how Mavropanos is improving with his injuries, because he is also a centre-back who can help us. Another option we can play with two, with three, Nacho Monreal and Lichtsteiner can play in this position. I prefer to use, if we can, a specialist centre-back.”
Arsenal were already toying with the idea of signing a striker in January with Danny Welbeck expected to be sidelined for some time after breaking his ankle last month.
Emery initially challenged teenager Eddie Nketiah to fill the void but the academy product has only started once since then and failed to shine in a Europa League win against Vorskla Poltava.
“It is a process,” Emery said when asked if he was happy with what he has seen from Nketiah – who is expected to lead the line against Qarabag.
“In this process we are giving them, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Emile Smith Rowe, chances to work with us.
“Our demand is very big. We are going to help them and then they need also to take this responsibility with confidence and a big performance. We need them, but we need big performances.”