Martin Odegaard will return, but Granit Xhaka is suspended for Arsenal’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg tie against Liverpool on Thursday.
Arsenal will aim to book their place in next month’s Carabao Cup final when they play hosts to Liverpool at the Emirates in the semi-final second leg on Thursday night. 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 unavailable to take on Liverpool after being sent off in the first leg last week. The former Arsenal captain joins Cedric Soares (knock), Takehiro Tomiyasu (calf) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (COVID-19) on the sidelines, while Nicolas Pepe is in Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Thomas Partey will be at Arteta’s disposal soon but is yet to return to London Colney since Ghana’s shock elimination in the opening stage of the AFCON. In his pre-match press conference, Arteta responded to questions surrounding Partey’s availability. Arteta also provided an update on the team news.
“There are issues, those issues have to be resolved that is why we couldn’t play the last game, but as you can understand we want to keep that internal. They are three cases [Martin Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe and Takehiro Tomiyasu] that for different reasons haven’t been able to play for us in recent weeks and we are trying to change and raise the levels of the players in the best possible way to compete tomorrow.”
“Well, they [Ghana] played last night. It was a huge disappointment for Thomas obviously because he was representing his country and in this period he had big aims towards the competition. He’s out now so he will be fully focused and involved with Arsenal as soon as possible.”
Odegaard has resumed training this week, and the Norwegian playmaker should be reinstated to the starting lineup. Odegaard’s return means Arteta should line Arsenal up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka being the two wide men. Alexandre Lacazette will lead the line for Arsenal against Liverpool, with Eddie Nketiah dropping to the bench.
Xhaka’s unavailability coupled with those of Partey and Mohamed Elneny means Albert Sambi Lokonga is the only natural central midfielder available. Talented prospect Charlie Patino could be in line to start alongside Lokonga in the double-pivot, but Ben White could get the nod to reprise the holding midfield role, having done so at Brighton & Hove Albion.
White’s vacated spot at the heart of the Arsenal defence should be taken up by Rob Holding, with Gabriel Magalhaes being his partner. Out wide, Calum Chambers and Kieran Tierney ought to be the two full-backs after shrugging off knocks to be available to take on Liverpool. Finally, Aaron Ramsdale will take his rightful place between the stick on Thursday.
Predicted Arsenal XI: Ramsdale; Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; White, Lokonga; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Lacazette