LONDON • Arsenal might have escaped with a clean sheet against Liverpool but their backline are set to face another test at Newcastle tomorrow.
The Gunners continue to have fitness concerns over their first-choice centre-back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, who missed the 0-0 draw against the Reds.
In their absence against Brendan Rodgers' men last Monday, a new partnership of Gabriel Paulista and Calum Chambers at times looked extremely vulnerable.
Only two wonder saves from goalkeeper Petr Cech, and the woodwork, prevented the away side from scoring.
"Mertesacker is still sick and Koscielny will have a test on his back," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told a press conference yesterday. "The less likely to be fit is Mertesacker."
With four points out of a possible nine so far and the squad far from firing on enough cylinders, the Frenchman admits Arsenal are "not close" to any signings before the transfer window closes on Tuesday. He remains, however, quietly hopeful that something inviting will present itself just in time.
"I am always confident that a last-minute situation or solution is available. The transfer market is always moving in the last five days," he said. "We work very hard. I have a team that work day and night to find good solutions. At the moment we are not close. I am involved of course in the decision, I am available 24 hours a day."
Club record signing Mesut Oezil is keen to share some of the goal-scoring burden after the Gunners fired blanks in two of their first three league games, with the first coming at home against West Ham.
But the £42.5 million (S$92.5 million) man insisted that he will continue to put the team ahead of any personal glory.
The German playmaker has scored nine goals to go with 17 assists in 51 English Premier League appearances since joining Arsenal from Real Madrid in 2013.
"I want to score more goals than in the last two seasons and that's my aim for this season," the 26-year-old, who was challenged by manager Wenger to score more than 10 goals this campaign, told the club's website.
"I think now and then I need to become a bit more selfish - then I'd definitely score more goals.
"But I'm a player who thinks for the team first and not for my own needs and that's why I will carry on to play the way I always do.
"I think that's one of my distinguishing characteristics."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS