LONDON (Sporting Alert) — Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger could hand new recruit Nacho Monreal an immediate debut in the English Premier League clash against Stoke City at Emirates Stadium.
Monreal was signed by Arsenal in the last minutes of the January transfer window on Thursday from Malaga and he’s expected to be a straight replacement at left-back for the injured Kieran Gibbs, who could be out for up to six weeks with a thigh problem.
“Our scouts have followed his progress for a while and of course we had a blow with the Gibbs injury, which is a bit longer than expected,” the manager said on Arsenal official website at www.arsenal.com.
“We expected [him to be out for] two to three weeks, but it will be four to six, so we were in a position where we had to make a quick decision. That explains our buy.
“We bought Monreal as a left back but he can play as well as a left-sided midfielder. We bought him as well because we believe he can integrate into our style of play and adapt very quickly to that.”
Wenger added: “He has the characteristics to play our game because he is very mobile, has a good left foot and is very good in combination play. That is vital in our style of play.
“He is available for the Stoke game. I have not made a decision yet.”
Captain and leading centre-back Thomas Vermaelen (ankle) is again doubtful for the contest and manager Wenger will check on him before kick-off.
Elsewhere, holding midfielder Mikel Arteta could return from a calf injury, but Francis Coquelin (hamstring) is also out and striker Gervinho continues to be away at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Meanwhile, for Stoke City, their two new deadline day recruits, goalkeeper Jack Butland and winger Brek Shea – will not be involved, with Butland going back to Birmingham on loan and Shea still recovering from a foot operation.
PREDICTIONS: Arsenal are strong favourites for a 2-0 win
SKY PICKS: Arsenal 2/5; Draw 7/2; Stoke 7/1
Arsenal v Stoke City Squads
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Monreal, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Sagna, Podolski, Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott, Giroud, Mannone, Koscielny, Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaby, Jenkinson, Rosicky.
Stoke City (from): Begovic, Sorensen, Cameron, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Whelan, Nzonzi, Walters, Kightly, Etherington, Jones, Whitehead, Crouch, Jerome, Adam, Palacios, Owen, Shotton.