Medley and Ballard hoping to benefit from Arsenal’s central-defensive conundrum

Arsenal have eight centre-backs in their first-team squad yet will have just two of them to choose from when they take on Brighton & Hove Albion tomorrow.

David Luiz is suspended, Pablo Mari and Sokratis are both injured, Calum Chambers is some way away from full fitness and William Saliba and Konstantinos Mavropanos are out on loan.

That leaves Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding (who wasn’t even in the squad against Manchester City) as the Gunners’ natural options at the heart of the defence against Brighton, although Kieran Tierney has played at centre-back previously and filled in there for part of the game against City.

With central-defensive options thin on the ground, head coach Mikel Arteta may be forced to delve into the club’s U23 squad, at least to provide sufficient cover on the bench.

Zech Medley and Daniel Ballard have been training with the first-team squad in recent weeks and the pair will hope that they will now have a greater chance of being involved.

Medley already has three first-team appearances to his name and would relish the opportunity to prove his worth. At times this season it appeared that he had fallen down the pecking order, with Harry Clarke seen as the standout centre-back option for the U23s.

However, Clarke has surprisingly been overlooked for first-team involvement, and now Ballard is back in the frame having recovered from the serious injury which saw his loan spell at Swindon Town come to an early conclusion.

Ballard has played just four games this season – three for Swindon and one for Arsenal U23s – but he has been fully fit for some time now.

Although Ballard is perhaps the more reliable performer Medley seems to be in pole position if Arteta is to select one of the two.

After a hugely frustrating start to the season in which he was barely involved, Medley featured prominently for the U23s in the second half of the campaign and would appear to be more ready physically given Ballard’s recent injury issues.

With games being played in quick succession, further injuries could open up chances for other youngsters (perhaps the likes of Zak Swanson and Trae Coyle). For now, though, the focus is on the centre of the defence, and it will be intriguing to see if either Medley or Ballard are called up tomorrow.

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