Mikel Arteta has a nightmare scenario as Arsenal enter the crunch point of their season with a win needed in their last two matches against Newcastle and Everton to confirm a top-four place. This would see Tottenham miss out after they gave their Champions League hopes a kick with the derby win.
Arsenal lost Gabriel Magalhaes at the end of the game due to a muscular injury. He joined Ben White on the list of defenders facing fitness issues with Arteta unable to give any positive update in a press release yesterday.
“It’s a good question!” Arteta said when asked about the status of players who might be available including White and Gabriel. “We will know probably more tomorrow, so we wanted to extend this period as much as possible to understand how they are recovering, how they are feeling, assess them and tomorrow probably we will know more about how they are.”
He added: “I could [give you an estimate], but I will probably be telling you whatever! Tomorrow will be the day we will have better answers, probably not the answers that we want until matchday, but hopefully better answers.”
White was on the bench for the match against Spurs, likely in case of Arsenal being in a winning position needing an additional body to hold onto the lead. Unfortunately, this situation never materialised and Arteta preferred instead not to risk him.
In their stead, much has been speculated on how the Arsenal boss might look to find solutions should the starting pair be absent. One possible avenue that has been highlighted is the use of some of the youth players.
However, Arteta will not be able to call upon Omar Rekik who has effectively confirmed his absence from the match. He posted to his Instagram Story yesterday that he was currently on holiday in Spain after the under-23s season finished.
Some players have stayed behind and were due to face Farnborough FC in a friendly on Friday before Arsenal cancelled the match. Likely due to the injury crisis at the club meaning there was a desire not to risk any potential players if they were needed for the senior squad.
That said, Arteta was quick to play down this possibility. He said the lack of minutes at the senior level would likely lean him towards using alternative unorthodox options instead.
“We will have to modify certain positions to try to make it work because we don’t have more defenders and even though we have academy players. They haven’t experienced a lot of those positions because they’re not specified central defenders, so it’s something that we will try to find a way,” explained Arteta.
Therefore, it seems unlikely that the likes of Alex Kirk or Jonathan Dinzeyi will be used but yet could make the Arsenal bench. Although the former has missed the recent youth training sessions.
Arteta has dealt with plenty of injuries this season already and big defeats. Now is the biggest test against a tough Newcastle side in another hostile ground. If Arsenal succeed it would represent a massive achievement.