Granit Xhaka and Nicolas Pepe are set to return while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is doubtful to feature for Arsenal versus Chelsea at the Emirates on Saturday
Arsenal will be desperate to end their frustrating run of games without a win when they play hosts to Chelsea at the Emirates on Saturday evening. And, Mikel Arteta has greeted a mixed bag of updates on the team news front ahead of his side’s latest fixture.
Granit Xhaka is available once again after serving out his three-match suspension, incurred after his petulant act against Burnley earlier this month. However, Thomas Partey continues to serve a spell on the sidelines due to his ongoing recovery from a thigh injury.
Apart from the duo, captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli are major doubts. Aubameyang continues to recover from a calf strain while Martinelli is battling to regain fitness after sustaining a major knock on his right shin against Manchester City.
Arteta spoke about Martinelli in the post-match press conference, in the immediate aftermath of his side’s 4-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup this week. The Arsenal boss said, “It was just a really bad kick on his shin and it was swelling up and he could not continue.”
While there was no immediate update on the Brazilian, Arteta praised the Brazilian, saying, “He has a unique energy and a way to transmit his passion for the game. He plays the game in a different way to any other player. It’s hard to compare him, but what I have to say is that it’s great to have him back.”
Given the fixture crunch, Martinelli might be given enough time to regain full fitness and the same goes for Aubameyang. In the absence of the Brazilian and the Arsenal captain, the front three of Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah picks itself, considering the recent struggles of ex-Chelsea winger Willian, with Alexandre Lacazette making way for Nketiah.
Nketiah will lead the line for Arsenal against Chelsea while Pepe and Saka will be the two wide men. In midfield, Xhaka should be back in the side straightaway despite his irresponsible behaviour the last time he featured for Arsenal. The Swiss midfielder will have Dani Ceballos for company in the middle of the park.
Saka’s deployment in attack means Kieran Tierney is likely to start as the left wing-back, with Hector Bellerin starting on the right flank. The three-man central defensive unit effectively picks itself then, with Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding and David Luiz taking their places in defence. Finally, there is no looking past Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal.
Arsenal Predicted XI: Leno; Holding, Luiz, Gabriel; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney; Pepe, Nketiah, Saka