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Wenger trains Arsenal midfielder as emergency defender to solve centre-back crisis

By Dominic Toner

Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has been training as an emergency defender, he has revealed.

Sky Sports reported on Tuesday that captain Per Mertesacker could be ruled out until the new year after suffering a knee injury against French Ligue 2 outfit Lens on Friday.

Defensive-midfielder Coquelin revealed to team-mate Jack Wilshire on Snapchat on Wednesday that he had been training as a centre-back in a new twist to Arsene Wenger’s bid to solve the team’s defensive problems.

Asked by Wilshere in the dressing room what he had been doing today, Coquelin replied: “Me? I have been playing centre-back and I’ve been bossing it, you know what I mean?”

Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel Paulista, Calum Chambers and new England Under-21 signing Rob Holding are the team’s only centre-back options.

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However, first-choice Koscielny could be absent from the opening Premier League game against Liverpool after being given an extended break following his involvement in Euro 2016, while Gabriel is also missing from the US tour after suffering a bout of tonsilitis.

Wenger now appears to have identified a potential back-up in Coquelin, and has seemingly moved to get the Frenchman used to the position.

Coquelin has established himself as Arsenal’s first-choice midfield anchorman over the last 18 months despite missing nearly three months of last season with knee ligament damage.

The Daily Mirror report that Hoffenheim centre-back Fabian Schar is a possible target and the 24-year-old is being monitored after shining at the Euros.

Arsenal face an MLS All-Stars side on Friday and fans may get a first glimpse at Coquelin as a centre-back if Wenger opts to field the Frenchman.

In other Arsenal team news, Wenger has backed a youngster to shine in midfield as he matures.