SHAFAQNA – Knocks meant the defensive pair were only fit enough to be amongst the substitutes on Tuesday night as Southampton won 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium to send the Gunners out of the Capital One Cup.
Arsenal struggled to create many clear-cut chances but it was at the back where their main issue laid, with the inexperienced back four boasting just 54 Arsenal appearances between them – the majority belonging to Francis Coquelin, who was playing out of position.
Injuries to Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal have left them light defensively, while knocks saw Mertesacker and Gibbs remain on the bench – injuries that Wenger says will not keep them out of Saturday’s derby with Tottenham.
“They will be all right,” he said. “We are a bit short, yes, because of the injuries we have.
“You sit there and think: Gibbs had a little hamstring problem and we could not play him, Mertesacker is a bit on the edge, and then we have no choice.
“I think if we lost the game tonight, it’s not because of (Isaac) Hayden, not because of (Calum) Chambers and not because of Coquelin. You have to be realistic.”
Wenger cut a forlorn figure after Arsenal exited at the third-round juncture for the first time in 12 years, with Alexis Sanchez’s sumptuous free-kick cancelled out by a Dusan Tadic penalty and long-range Nathaniel Clyne effort.
“It’s disappointing because we had a good start and we made two unneeded errors on the two goals – and big ones,” the Frenchman said.
“We lacked a bit of experience at the back, but overall they did well. We gave a lot and it’s frustrating not to be able to score in the second half.
“When you look at the amount of possession we had, we have to give credit to Southampton, they played well and were well organised.
“They abused a bit the fouls in the middle of the park, but they are a good side and they played well tonight. Overall it is frustrating because we gave a lot.”
Wenger’s frustration was in stark contrast to counterpart Ronald Koeman, who oversaw Southampton’s fifth successive win in all competitions.
The Saints boss underlined his intentions in the competition by naming a strong side at the Emirates, with seven senior internationals in the starting line-up.
Match-winner Clyne was one of those without senior honours, although former Holland international Koeman believes he is good enough to break into the England squad.
“I think he’s ready,” he said. “He has a lot of experience, he is playing very well from the beginning of the season.
“He scored a great goal. I think his performance was very good and I think it’s an option for the national coach and I’m very happy to have Clyney in our team because he brings a lot of experience.
“He brings a lot of spirit and I like to have and play with offensive full-backs. He shows that quality and it’s very important for the team.”