Arsene Wenger is set to hand a surprise start to Mathieu Debuchy in the Europa League fixture against Red Star Belgrade on Thursday evening.
An outing from kick off would be the defender’s first start in eleven months, while Wenger intends to rest some key defensive players for the tie and bring the Frenchman back into the first team lineup to provide some all-important cover to the Gunners’ defence.
The north London club are already without Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers due to injury. Meanwhile Laurent Koscielny is expected to be in contention after some niggling problems with his thigh.
Debuchy’s Arsenal career has not gone as planned since he made his move from Newcastle United in July 2014, at a fee reported to be around £12m. Signed the club to replace the departing Bacary Sagna, the Frenchman’s minutes at Arsenal have been cut short by constant injuries and the rise of Hector Bellerin.
He has registered just three Premier League games for Arsenal in the past two seasons, and has spent time on loan at Ligue 1 side Bordeaux.
Arsenal fans were surprised to see Debuchy’s name still on Gunners’ books following the last transfer window, but he remains under contract with Arsenal until 2019 and Wenger revealed in his pre-match press conference that the 32-year-old will start the clash with Red Star Belgrade if he can prove his fitness.
“He [Debuchy] will certainly start tomorrow,” Wenger said. “He has not played for a long time because every time he was close to coming back he was injured again.”
The French manager has been using the Europa League so far to change his squad and give playing time to his young players. Those on the Gunners’ usual starting lineup in Europa League are Jack Wilshere, Rob Holding, and Reiss Nelson have all been given opportunity to shine so far in the competition.