There are only a few games left from the March international break until Arsenal’s Premier League season begins.
For Gunners manager Mikel Arteta, the ideal situation would be for all 14 of his permanent lineup players who were called up for international service to arrive in London Colney this week healthy and prepared for what has already been called “ten cup finals” that will decide this season’s championship chase.
Before the season’s final month, Arsenal has remaining games against teams like Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea.
This upcoming Saturday, they welcome Leeds United to the Emirates Stadium, with Leeds needing a definite win to escape relegation.
Arteta should have been able to rely on 24 key players until the end of the season, following a hectic January in terms of transfer activity that saw the Gunners add three while allowing Albert Sambi Lokonga, Marquinhos, and Cedric to join Crystal Palace, Norwich City, and Fulham respectively on loan.
But now that Takehiro Tomiyasu has undergone knee surgery, he joins Mohamed Elneny as a long-term absence for the Gunners. As a result of this, now the Spaniard only has 22 players at his disposal, which means that if everyone else is healthy and available for selection, at least two key players will be left out of a Premier League match day squad.
This situation means that Arteta will carefully need to think out his matchday strategies and decisions during each upcoming game.
With young Karl Hein waiting in the wings for another call-up after making his first-team debut against Brighton in the Carabao Cup back in November, Aaron Ramsdale and Matt Turner are set to continue as the No. 1 and No. 2 goalkeeping options, respectively, barring any injuries.
Arteta will need to adjust something in the defence department. When everyone was healthy in the past, it’s reasonable to say that Kieran Tierney, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes, William Saliba, Rob Holding, Tomiyasu, and Oleksandr Zinchenko played a significant role in the Spaniard’s plans.
Jakub Kiwior, one of the three January arrivals, should now be a regular in the Arsenal matchday squad for the next 10 games as a result of Tomiyasu’s season-ending injury, even though it first seemed as though he would be the unfortunate one to be left out, due to selection criteria for the 3-0 victory against Fulham earlier in the month.
In Elneny’s injury absence, the midfield very much chooses itself because one would anticipate Thomas Partey, Martin Odegaard, and Granit Xhaka to remain as the team’s default starts when healthy, with Emile Smith Rowe, Fabio Vieira, and Jorginho serving as alternatives off the bench.
When Eddie Nketiah returns to training as normal, things will start to become interesting in terms of Arteta’s offensive possibilities. The striker had been a constant in Arsenal matchday squads this season before suffering an ankle injury against Everton, but his absence has given Reiss Nelson a chance to start the last three Premier League games.
If Nketiah is ahead of Nelson in the lineup, he will be able to recover his position and serve as a backup option for Leandro Trossard on the substitutes’ bench if Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus, or Gabriel Martinelli need a break.
Squad lineup which will be returning after the international break:
Goalkeepers: Ramsdale, Turner
Defenders: Tierney, White, Gabriel, Saliba, Kiwior, Holding, Zinchenko
Midfielders: Partey, Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Vieira, Jorginho, Xhaka
Forwards: Saka, Gabriel Jesus, Martinelli, Nketiah, Trossard