As our injured players bid to get back into first team action, there was another big step last night as both Pablo Mari and Rob Holding both got 45 minutes under their belt.

They played a part in a 2-1 defeat by Chelsea for the U23s, both notching up 45 first half minutes against the Blues at Borehamwood’s home ground, full details here.

MATCH REPORT: Balogun put Arsenal ahead in the game before Armando Broja and Billy Gilmour turned the game around before half time. END OF MATCH REPORT.

Mari signed for around £4million from Brazilian side Flamengo in the January window and Rob Holding is on a quest for full fitness.

Pablo Mari himself tweeted:

They partnered up in the heart of the defence and played very well apparently despite the result and the Manager of the U23s, Steve Bould (you may have heard of him, he’s got no hair but we don’t care) said:

“It was actually a very good game for them to come in to. I think Chelsea’s striker is a good player and they have good players all over the park so it was a good test for them and a good 45 minutes. I’m sure they will go on and use that for first-team value…”

With Kieran Tierney also on the comeback trail it won’t be long before Arteta finds himself with a major, defensive selection headache. We also have Cedric Soares currently nursing a Kalstrom*, also Saka has played so well in recent games. David Luiz and even Mustafi have been instrumental in keeping back to back clean sheets so will no longer be easy to replace at centre back.

Credit must go to Arteta for fixing up a very shaky, unreliable and leaky defence in such a short space of time. There’s even a slim chance this season won’t end up as a complete waste of time, with two cup competitions still on the go, and an unlikely, yet possible top five spot to secure a CL space also to fight for.

  • A Kalstrom (adj.): a major injury which did not show up on a medical, yet keeps the player in the treatment room for 3 more weeks**. (e.g. Soares is trying to shake off his Kalstrom before the end of the season)
  • 3 more weeks (adj.): an indeterminate amount of time set for an Arsenal player to return, based on the equation:
    3 weeks plus any random date in the next 4 months = players return date