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The Gunners were already short on numbers ahead of last night’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield, which finished 0-0, and their problems were worsened after Granit Xhaka was sent off and Bukayo Saka and Cedric Soares were forced to come off with possible injuries.
It leaves Arsenal facing the prospect of having just 12 first-team, outfield players available for Sunday’s trip to Tottenham. Premier League guidance states clubs must have outfield 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper.
Arsenal’s squad could be boosted by the weekend and the team are due to report to their London Colney base this afternoon for training.
Per League protocols, players will undergo a round of Covid-19 testing and Arsenal have had at least one squad member test positive for the virus before all six of their last games. Martin Odegaard tested positive ahead of the Liverpool game and will miss Sunday’s derby.
Cedric and Saka were due to be assessed today by medical staff after limping off last night, while Emile Smith Rowe (groin), Sead Kolasinac (hamstring) and Takehiro Tomiyasu (calf) will all be checked after missing last night’s game against Liverpool.
Mohamed Elneny, Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Partey are at the Africa Cup of Nations, taking Arsenal’s list of possible absentees for the weekend to 11.
So far, 20 Premier League games have been postponed this season due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including Leicester’s trip to Burnley this weekend.
The virus has caused players to miss matches through isolation, while it has also forced those involved to play more minutes and therefore squads have been stretched through injuries too. Ordinarily clubs would be able to cope with that, and AFCON, by Covid has exacerbated the problem.
The most recent game to be called of was Leicester’s clash with Everton on Tuesday, with the Foxes not having enough players due to Covid-19 cases, injuries and players on international duty at AFCON.
Clubs, however, have failed with requests and Chelsea were forced to play Wolves before Christmas, despite naming just four outfield players on the bench.
Arteta said late last night he was unsure if Sunday’s game would go ahead and he was due to provide a further update this afternoon when speaking to the media.
“It’s a possibility in any game from our side, from the opponents’ side, because of the amount of issues that everybody is having and because it’s happening every week,” he said.
“But we try to prepare for the games thinking that we’re going to play. If something happens along the way, it is what it is.”
Arsenal desperately want to bolster their squad, particularly the midfield area, and a move for Juventus’ Arthur is progressing.
The Gunners are ready to take the Brazilian on loan for the season and cover the cost of his wages, but Juve won’t sanction the move until they find a replacement.
Former midfielder Jack Wilshere, who is doing his coaching badges at the club, has been suggested as an emergency option, but Arteta cooled talk of that last week.
“I think I was very clear with the situation with Jack and the role that he was going to have being around here and we continue the same way,” he said.
Midfield will be a key area for Arteta on Sunday, if the game goes ahead as planned, and he is very short on options there.
Albert Sambi Lokonga is the only available, senior central midfielder and Arteta could be forced to play 18-year-old Charlie Patino. Another option would be to push Ben White into such a role or ask Calum Chambers to fill in there.
Arteta will at least have taken plenty of heart from last night’s performance at Anfield, where Arsenal dug deep to claim a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.
“It’s an extraordinary opponent and we got a result in the circumstances,” he said.
“We have to consider that it’s positive, but we have a return leg and we’re going to need everyone back.
“We need to create a great atmosphere at the Emirates with the fans who travelled today that created incredible noise and gave us incredible energy, and put a real game there to try and get into the final.”