Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that he'd like to give Per Mertesacker a rest when the Gunners take on Middlesbrough in the FA Cup tomorrow, but he'll likely be forced to change that plan because Laurent Koscielny is suffering with a new shoulder injury.
Koscielny's campaign has been plagued by fitness problems, principally acute tendinitis in both Achilles tendons that has already forced him to miss 14 games in all competitions this season.
Arsenal continue to manage that issue in the hope of keeping the French international fit when it matters most, but Koscielny now has another complaint to deal with which likely means he won't be risked for Sunday's fifth-round tie at the Emirates.
Gabriel primed for debut
Wenger told The Guardian that Koscielny will need a late fitness test to decide whether he'll be in the squad to face Middlesbrough tomorrow, but regardless January signing Gabriel Paulista looks primed to make his debut following an £11.3 million move from Villarreal.
Gabriel has been signed to ease the burden on Koscielny and Mertesacker, who have been relied upon far too heavily over the last 18 months in truth.
Wenger must manage game time very carefully
Games like the Boro showdown represent a tough call for Wenger, who is charged with rotating where required without putting Arsenal's bid to retain the FA Cup at risk.
Centre-back is an area which desperately needs freshening up though, which means Gabriel needs to hit the ground running and prove his worth sooner rather than later.
When the Champions League comes calling the Gunners will be back to playing three times a week consistently, for that reason if there's even the slightest doubt surrounding Koscielny's fitness he should not be risked this weekend.
Wenger has already been forced to manage without Mathieu Debuchy, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey for large chunks of the campaign, he can't afford to let Mertesacker or Koscielny join that list of absentees.
Arsenal fans, do you think Wenger has got it right this season when it comes to managing his players to prevent unnecessary injuries? Have your say in the comment box below.
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