Wenger puts four rookies on standby for crunch Fenerbahce test

Hector Bellerin, Isaac Hayden, Serge Gnabry and Gedion Zelalem are all set to be part of travelling party for the Champions League play-off clash with the squad hit by injuries

By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent

Arsenal are set to respond to their early season injury crisis by calling up four rookies for their pivotal Champions League qualifier against Fenerbahce.

Youngsters Hector Bellerin, Isaac Hayden and Serge Gnabry, all 18, and Gedion Zelalem, 16, have been put on stand-by to join the senior squad that flies to Turkey on Tuesday afternoon.

Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Kieran Gibbs, who all picked up injuries in the Gunners’ disastrous 3-1 defeat against Aston Villa last Saturday, are expected to pass fitness tests and be in the travelling party for Wednesday night’s opening leg of the two-legged encounter.

But the squad is increasingly threadbare following a string of injuries to established players and Arsene Wenger is also faced with a late decision on whether to include Bacary Sagna in the travelling party.

Goal has learned that the 30-year-old right-back is suffering from heavy whiplash following a horrible fall towards the end of the Villa match.

There is a possibility that Arsenal could take 19 players to Fenerbahce rather than the usual match-day 18, with Spanish right-back Bellerin providing cover in case Sagna does not make it.

Bellerin, centre-back Hayden and midfielder Zelalem are yet to make their senior Arsenal debuts, while winger Gnabry has made only four appearances for the club, three of which were substitute cameos.

Wenger has already ruled out Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after sustaining a serious knee injury at the weekend. Arsenal will receive the results on Tuesday of the scan he had on Monday after the swelling on his knee subsided.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has joined Mikel Arteta, Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby as a long-term absentee, while Nacho Monreal is also not yet fully fit.

This has highlighted even further Arsenal’s need for squad reinforcement with less than two weeks of the transfer window remaining.

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