Facing a center back crisis, Arsenal's Wenger notes how history favors MLS

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

SAN JOSE, Calif. — When MLS All-Star head coach Dominic Kinnear puts his game plan together to find a way to beat perennial English Premier League contenders Arsenal on Thursday night in the AT&T MLS All-Star Game (7:30 pm ET on ESPN, UniMás, TSN and RDS), there’s an Achilles heel that is sure to jump off the page: Arsenal’s center backs.

The Gunners were dealt a blow last Friday in a preseason friendly against French club Lens as experienced defender Per Mertesacker went down with a knee injury that required surgery on Monday and prevented him from traveling to San Jose. Without disclosing the exact injury, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger indicated at a Tuesday All-Star press conference that he will be “out a few months.”

“We should look for an option, of course, to get a bit more experience,” said Wenger, who indicated some of his young center backs would see time on Thursday. “With Per being out, we are a bit short on experience and we are looking to bring somebody [on the transfer market].”

As far as other areas of the field, Wenger confirmed that new signing Granit Xhaka and US international Gedion Zelalem would see time against the MLS All-Stars.

“We are asked to do a job. We are under pressure every time to win the game,” Wenger said. “We play to win and we want to win as always with style and respect of our identity and values … that’s what we do.

“We know, in fact, that that the history of this game is in favor of MLS because from what I’ve heard, they’ve won in former seasons. They’ve won the games most of the times. We know we face a very determined and motivated team.”

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