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Arsene Wenger believes he has three youngsters in his squad capable of deputising for the suspended Granit Xhaka, should his side pick up any injuries in the Swiss midfielder’s absence.
Xhaka will miss his side’s next four matches after he received his second red card of the season last weekend for a dangerous, two-footed tackle on Burnley’s Steven Defour.
The former Basel man’s suspension, allied to Mohamed Elneny’s international commitments and Santi Cazorla’s long-term injury, leaves Wenger with Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey as the only senior central midfielders left in his squad.
Arsenal travel to Southampton in the FA Cup on Saturday ahead of a testing set of February fixtures which will see the Gunners face league leaders Chelsea and Bayern Munich in the Champions League, and the players who Wenger feels could help in an emergency are unlikely to inspire much confidence.
‘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,’ said Wenger.