Just a handful of fixtures from the September international break remain before the Premier League season resumes for Arsenal.
The dream scenario for Gunners manager Mikel Arteta is that all 10 of his senior players selected for international duty return to London Colney this week unscathed as squad rotation is going to be vital over the next six weeks with his side in action 13 times across three different competitions.
And it begins on Saturday for Arsenal with a huge North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur, whilst there are fixtures against the likes of Liverpool, PSV Eindhoven, Brighton, Chelsea and Wolves to negotiate before another pause in the season for the winter World Cup.
Following a busy summer of transfer activity which saw the Gunners add five but allow Alexandre Lacazette, Bernd Leno, Nuno Tavares, Nicolas Pepe and Ainsley Maitland-Niles to depart either permanently or on loan, it means Arteta is working with 24 senior players until the January window at the earliest.
But with Mohamed Elneny a long-term injury absentee and unlikely to return before the new year, effectively the number is 23 which means at least three senior players will have to miss out on a Premier League matchday squad if everyone else is fit and available for selection.
This scenario will force Arteta into making some tough calls for each game. As a result, football.london have taken a look at what would be Arsenal’s best 20-man squad for the Premier League after the international break with every first-team player – aside from Elneny – fully fit.
Unless Aaron Ramsdale or Matt Turner get injured, it’s likely that they will continue as the number one and number two goalkeeping options respectively with youngster Karl Hein waiting in the wings for a call-up. As the rules are different in the Europa League, the Estonia international can expect to make the substitutes bench at the very least for the remainder of the group stage.
Defence is an area where Arteta will have to disappoint someone. It’s safe to say that when everyone is healthy, Kieran Tierney, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes, William Saliba, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Oleksandr Zinchenko are a big part of the Spaniard’s plans. How he lines them up remains to be seen as there is strong competition for places across the backline.
The versatility within that group means that Cedric Soares could be the unlucky one as the Gunners have enough cover in the full-back area. In addition, Rob Holding can squeeze into the squad as the 3-0 win over Brentford indicated that he is the back-up right-sided central defensive option.
Midfield pretty much picks itself in the absence of Elneny as one would expect Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Granit Xhaka to be automatic starters with Emile Smith Rowe, Fabio Vieira and Albert Sambi Lokonga providing options off the substitutes bench.
Things do get rather interesting regarding Arteta’s attacking options now that Reiss Nelson is back in full training. He was in the squad for the opening game of the season against Crystal Palace but has been absent ever since because of injury which has allowed Marquinhos to make the bench for the last four Premier League games.
That decision does indicate Nelson is ahead of the £3m summer signing in the pecking order to provide back-up from the substitutes bench along with Eddie Nketiah for Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli.
Arsenal’s best Premier League squad after the international break
Goalkeepers: Ramsdale, Turner
Defenders: Tierney, White, Gabriel, Saliba, Holding, Tomiyasu, Zinchenko
Midfielders: Partey, Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Vieira, Lokonga, Xhaka
Forwards: Gabriel Jesus, Martinelli, Nketiah, Nelson
Players missing: Hein, Cedric, Elneny (injured), Marquinhos