Granit Xhaka delivers double Arsenal trophy vow as Gabriel Jesus plan altered
Granit Xhaka insists Arsenal have the squad depth to fight for both the Europa League and Premier League this season.
Arsenal are five points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League as they chase a first title since 2004.
The Gunners are also in the last-16 of the Europa League, and they were held to a 2-2 draw by Sporting Lisbon in the Portuguese capital on Thursday night.
Mikel Arteta made six changes for the first leg of the tie, with the Arsenal manager clearly having one eye on Sunday’s game at Fulham in the Premier League.
Asked on Thursday night, however, if the Gunners have the squad depth to fight on two fronts for the remainder of the season, Xhaka said: “Yes, I mean you need a big squad, you need every player to be, first of course, fit.
“But you can see European football is totally different than the Premier League. And we saw that today as well. You see the last games, the results, we won them. We have to respect all the opponents, even if Bournemouth is not top in the table.
“We know how difficult it is to play against them. Even in the Premier League you play against first or last, it’s the same. It’s difficult. But as long as you get the result, nobody will ask you at the end of May [about the performances].”
Arteta should make changes on Sunday, and he will hope to have captain Martin Odegaard back fit. Odegaard missed Thursday night’s game due to illness. He had been feeling sick earlier this week but felt better on Wednesday and trained with the squad before flying to Lisbon.
The midfielder then felt unwell again on Thursday morning and had to pull out of the game. He is recovering well and hopes to play against Fulham. Odegaard is one of a few Arsenal players who have been ill, with Kieran Tierney staying at home for this trip. Fabio Vieira had a sore throat but played on Thursday.
Arsenal had been due to stay overnight in Lisbon and train here on Friday morning, but they changed plans and flew home on Thursday night instead. That decision had a knock-on impact on striker Gabriel Jesus, who had been due to travel to Lisbon so he could train with the squad on Friday.
After that plan was altered, the Brazilian — who has been out since December with a knee injury — stayed at home as he worked his way back to full fitness. Sunday’s match could come too soon for Jesus, but he is not far off making a comeback that will boost Arsenal’s title bid.
“We lost Eddie [Nketiah] as well, so it’s much more important to have Gabi back,” said Xhaka. “Leo [Trossard] as well is injured and he can play in this position.
“Step by step, I hope that Gabi will be 100 per cent fit to help this team because we know that he can help us. With his attitude, with his personality, he is very, very important for us.”