Arsenal

Xhaka hope, Gabriel Jesus decision as Arsenal pair poised to return to squad for Tottenham visit

Arsenal host Tottenham Hotspur in the North London Derby in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, but what items will be on Mikel Arteta's agenda ahead of the huge game?

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has a lot on his plate ahead of this weekend’s North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur.

Not only is local pride and bragging rights at stake, but victory for the Gunners will see them retain top spot in the Premier League table, end Spurs’ 13-game unbeaten run in the competition and perhaps most importantly gain a measure of revenge after what happened in the last meeting between the two sides.

Of course, Arsenal’s preparations for the game will be somewhat disjointed because of the international break. Arteta has not seen a number of his senior players for the best part of a week and it still remains to be seen what condition they’ll be in upon rejoining the rest of the group at London Colney.

All of which adds a level of intrigue into the key decisions facing the Spaniard leading up to the North London Derby and here is what we think is on the Gunners manager’s agenda for the days ahead.

Fitness checks

Three senior players have returned from international duty earlier than expected. Thomas Partey pulled out of the Ghana team to face Brazil because of a knee problem, whilst the Kieran Tierney was recalled by the Gunners as a precautionary measure following a head injury and Tomiyasu was withdrawn from the Japan squad “due to club circumstances”.

For the former pair, in particular, being back at London Colney will allow the club to closely monitor their progress and make a decision regarding their availability for Sunday.

Zinchenko decision

There was some confusion – albeit created by Arteta – regarding Oleksandr Zinchenko’s fitness going into the Brentford game as the Gunners boss refused to confirm his absence during the pre-match press conference even though the Ukraine national team had released a statement revealing a two-week lay-off for the 25-year-old.

Now, it’s understood that the £34million summer signing from Manchester City is in contention to be available for selection against Spurs, but will he be handed an immediate recall to the starting line-up? A lot could depend on the versatile defender’s fitness and what condition Tierney is in.

Keep in mind that the Arsenal No.3 has been very impressive in his last two outings at club level, was praised for stepping up for Scotland in the absence of Andy Robertson against Ukraine last week and has been tipped to retain his place in the side by former striker Kevin Campbell.

Odegaard and Xhaka hope

At the time of writing, the Gunners have three players still involved on international duty; Matt Turner, Martin Odegaard and Granit Xhaka. Of the trio, the latter pair make up two-thirds of Arteta’s best midfield, so naturally, he will be hoping they come through their respective fixtures unscathed.

Perhaps more so his recently appointed permanent club captain who missed the 3-0 win over Brentford with a calf injury and was late in linking up with the Norway squad. Now, the good news is that he did start against Slovenia on Saturday evening and was able to complete 71 minutes unscathed.

In addition, Odegaard has all but confirmed he will feature in Norway’s UEFA Nations League decider against Serbia on Tuesday night and all those connected with Arsenal are likely to be praying that he doesn’t sustain a fresh injury setback.

Gabriel Jesus dilemma

Currently, Gabriel Jesus is the only Arsenal player in danger of facing a suspension as he has received four yellow cards thus far – the last of which he picked up in the 3-0 win at Brentford almost a fortnight ago – in the Premier League this season, so he must watch his step on Saturday.

Another yellow card in the North London Derby means he will be suspended for the big game against Liverpool on October 9. Therefore, it would be in Arteta’s best interests to perhaps have a word with his summer signing before kick-off, advising him to watch his step with regards to his tackling and dissent.

Alternatively, the Spaniard could hand Jesus a new role by naming him on the bench to almost guarantee he doesn’t pick up yellow card number five. With that said, given how impressive the forward has been, it would be a major shock if the Gunners No.9 isn’t named in the starting line-up.

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