They say bad things come in threes. In the case of Arsenal away at Tottenham it could be argued that far more than three instances stand out, although in the context of the season there are some clear candidates.
You can lose a Premier League game. Preferably not this game, but you can lose a game of football. The nature of a low scoring sport means that the finest of margins can tilt the scales one way or the other.
If you do happen to suffer defeat, it’s best to make sure that it is no worse than that. Say, for instance, Rob Holding getting himself sent off for two stupid yellow cards that rule him out of Monday’s trip to Newcastle.
While far beyond anyone’s control, Gabriel then falling to the floor with an apparent hamstring pull, the same one that kept Benjamin White out of action for the last three days, completed the trifecta of ‘bad things’ that happened to Arsenal.
Arsenal forced into back four reshuffle vs Newcastle with Gabriel and Rob Holding set to miss out for crucial Premier League top four clash
Newcastle is a must win fixture because Tottenham will not drop points at home to a woeful Burnley team, nor will they do anything less than win heavily away at the worst side in the division who are heading straight back to the Championship bottom of the table.
The pressure is already on, and now Arsenal have to navigate their way to three points on Tyneside with a defence more patched up than any of the previous iterations seen this season.
If White is passed fit – which keeping him on the bench against Spurs was designed to help with – then Arsenal will have four senior defenders to choose from. Just four.
Gabriel could well miss the rest of the campaign, Kieran Tierney is still out, and Holding is suspended. This means a back four of Nuno Tavares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Benjamin White, and Cedric looks set to start at St James’ Park.
Centrally, if White is OK, it looks like a nice pairing. Tomiyasu plays at left centre-back for his country, and looked comfortable in the middle when he moved there after Holding’s red card. Where the concern lies is in either full-back position, with the fear-inducing and accident prone pairing of Nuno and Cedric sure to strike fear into supporters, and hope into Newcastle forwards.
Arsenal have been scrapping their way through 2022 with a paper thin squad, using Wenger-era signings to salvage their season and, it has up until now, worked. Arsenal are still one point ahead of Tottenham in the table. Win both games and Champions League football returns to the Emirates. Simple.
But the task ahead is a daunting one. The overwhelming likelihood is that this game will start with just one of the first choice back four playing in his right position. Not only that, he has yet to train after missing the last three games.
This team needs all the support it can get. Use the adversity to make the success story all the more dramatic, because this is some task ahead.