Mikel Arteta once again finds his squad slightly stretched as Arsenal turn their attention now toward a second away game in a matter of days, this one just as important as the last. With three points from their opening two Champions League matches and back-to-back fixtures with the toughest opponent on paper, the season is starting to ramp up.
It hasn’t been a simple return from international duty for the boss or his players, with several coming back from long trips from South America to be in action on Saturday evening just to get back and prepare to travel to Spain shortly after. With the pressure of a top-of-the-table fight and European commitments now growing, it is a key time for the squad.
Luckily, against Chelsea Arteta was able to work with a near fully fit squad even if some players are being pushed. Bukayo Saka had the fortnight off, starting his first game since the defeat to RC Lens nearly three weeks ago. Saka wasn’t at his most effective, though, and was largely contained on the right by Marc Cucurella before cropping up with a vital assist to level the game.
He is set to be fit once more for the next pressing demand but will need to be carefully managed with such huge expectation on his shoulders. For Saka, one of the benefits has been that in attack Arteta has more options this season and Leandro Trossard proved just that, coming from the bench to score at Stamford Bridge.
He had been another injury doubt himself after being withdrawn from the Belgium squad. The winger was passed as fit once more for the trip to Chelsea though and showed his worth with another excellent display, possibly earning a place in the starting XI against Sevilla.
Outside of Jurrien Timber, who is the only current long-term issue for Arsenal to manage, there was a surprise absence for midfielder Fabio Vieira. The Portuguese ace was left from the squad at SW6, the first time he hasn’t been selected in the matchday 20 for a league game this season.
Unlike with Aaron Ramsdale, who missed the game and was replaced on the bench by third-choice goalkeeper Karl Hein after the birth of his baby boy on Friday, there was no reason given as to Vieira being left out. It is now common for the Gunners to give an explaination as they have done previously with Ramsdale or Thomas Partey.
However, football.london understands that this was simply a selection choice made by Arteta with a strong group of substitutes named including Kai Havertz, Eddie Nketiah, Trossard, Emile Smith Rowe and Partey himself. It now remains to be seen whether or not Vieira will get the nod for Tuesday night.
He has played in both group stage games so far this season, starting the defeat to Lens but being taken off before the hour mark. He now faces a challenge to reassert himself in the team.
Arsenal fans have also called for Takehiro Tomiyasu to get the nod against Sevilla after Oleksandr Zinchenko was once more replaced early on. The Japanese full-back has had his share of gametime this term with Zinchenko coming back late into the squad after pre-season. Although there is no suggestion that he is struggling with fitness it is a concern to see such an important player not finishing games.
The same cannot be said for captain Martin Odegaard. He is playing every game for Arsenal but has struggled in recent weeks to find the form that saw him score 15 times with seven assists from midfield last term. Some have called for him to actually be dropped in the wake of one of his most unimpactful performances since arriving. He started both group games before this and has been central to most of the good work this season but after such a demanding start to the year and fixtures with Norway there is a chance to rotate if Arteta does want it.
The other main dilemma for Arteta is with regards to his goalkeeper. David Raya continued his slightly messy start to life as he was caught out by Mykhailo Mudryk’s surprise shot-cum-cross in the second half and nearly gave up a third goal to Cole Palmer with a wayward pass from the back.
Since starting against Everton he has been the undoubted number one choice, but with Ramsdale back in training ahead of the game there is genuine competition here and a rotation might make sense in this game. The Gunners then take on Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday..…CONTINUE.FULL.READING>>>