In what is likely a huge blow - considering their contributions in the last few weeks - both Seb Larsson and Jermain Defoe have been ruled out of this weekend's game at Arsenal due to injuries sustained in last weekend's two-nil win over Stoke City.
Larsson, who played fifty-four minutes of the Stoke win before being replaced by Jeremain Lens, is wearing a knee brace and has visited a specialist in Barcelona regarding medial knee ligament damage. Not good news whichever way you look at it, and adds credence to the apparent need for reinforcements in the centre of midfield in when the transfer window opens in just over four weeks.
Defoe's form and performance levels have improved over the course of the season and losing him ahead of a difficult away game is a blow, but softened somewhat after the rise of youngster Duncan Watmore through the ranks. When asked who will provide the goals with Defoe missing Allardyce replied simply with 'Duncan'.
With Larsson missing and Jack Rodwell still struggling for fitness it's anyone's guess as to who plays alongside Lee Cattermole and Yann M'Vila in the centre of midfield on Saturday. Whilst we've gone before with Adam Johnson in there I would imagine that considering the way Arsenal play Sam Allardyce will be looking to pack out the middle of the pack, thus eliminating both him and Jeremain Lens from starting the game.
With options limited I'd assume that Jordi Gomez will be the player to replace Larsson, and it's not necessarily a completely terrible swap. With Watmore up front we'll be looking to catch Arsenal on the break early balls in behind from the Spaniard might be just what gets us a goal or two on Saturday. Whilst our midfielders have worked hard in the past couple of weeks my main gripe with both Larsson and Cattermole is that they have been conceding possession cheaply, so asking Gomez to retain the ball and look for simple passes will be a must in this game.
Having allowed Liam Bridcutt to leave on loan we're struggling for options on the bench, so it's an ideal opportunity for Allardyce to give the likes of Liam Agnew a chance to train with the first team and be a part of the first team squad at the weekend. Agnew had a fine game for the under 21's away at Chelsea earlier in the week, a game we won 3-1.