It was confirmed on Thursday that Lucas Digne is set for a spell on the sidelines after suffering an ankle ligament injury in training this week.
Our left-back is set to undergo surgery that is expected to keep him out of the next two months.
This will come as a big blow to us, particularly next month where we have three midweek fixtures, including matches on both Boxing Day and Monday 28 December.
Digne will also miss our FA Cup third round tie in the New Year and possibly the fourth round, should we get there. There are also two midweek fixtures in January. Unfortunate timing to say the least.
The 27-year-old was absent for our 2-1 loss at Newcastle United at the start of the month following his red card against Southampton. For those who watched the game or saw the Premier League highlights will have seen that neither of the Magpies’ goals came from down our left wing in open play at least.
Niels Nkounkou, arrival from Marseille over the summer, made his first Premier League start for us at St James’ Park that day and didn’t last the full 90 minutes. It remains his only league appearance for us to date, though he did start all three of our EFL Cup wins back in September.
Lucas Digne has been excellent for us ever since arriving from Barcelona in 2018, scoring four Premier League goals in his first season. These days he is an assist machine with his crosses from both open play and set pieces down the left flank – setting up seven goals last season and already with four assists in eight league matches in 2020-21.
No doubt the former Paris Saint-Germain and AS Roma man is one of the first names on the team sheet usually, and one that has attracted the attention of big clubs over the past 12 months. Don’t underestimate the absence this could have on us over the coming weeks.
20-year-old Nkounkou would be the obvious choice to replace Digne over the next two months, but whether Carlo Ancelotti has faith in the youngster remains to be seen. Fabian Delph could be the cover having played their briefly whilst with Manchester City, and having only featured in three Premier League matches for us this season (1 start).
Ancelotti switched to a 3-4-3 formation in last weekend’s 3-2 win at Fulham so this could be the formation for the next two months, or at least for this weekend to see if it continues to work. Lucas Digne and Alex Iwobi played the wingback roles at Craven Cottage.
Michael Keane, Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey were the starting centre-backs in West London. But should we go with this formation throughout Digne’s absence, Mason Holgate is the only other established centre-back to provide rotation.
We’ll find out as early as tomorrow as to what the boss has planned when we welcome Leeds United to Elland Road in a 17:30 GMT kickoff.
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