Mikel Arteta’s team is once more feeling the strain as Arsenal prepares for their second away match in as many days, a match that is just as crucial as the first. The season is picking up steam with three points from their first two Champions League games and back-to-back games against the team with the most difficult opponent on paper.
For the coach and his players, it hasn’t been an easy transition back from international duty; several have traveled extensively from South America simply to get back and prepare for a trip to Spain the next day. It’s a crucial time for the team as they balance the pressure of competing for the top of the league with their growing responsibilities in Europe.
Fortunately, Arteta was able to use an almost totally healthy squad against Chelsea even though certain players were under pressure. Saka started his first game following the loss to RC Lens over three weeks ago after taking the fortnight off. Saka wasn’t at his best, though, and Cucurella did a good job of keeping him in check on the right before Saka came up with a crucial assist to tie the game.
He is expected to be fit for the upcoming urgent need, but with such high expectations on him, he will need to be carefully handled. One advantage for Saka has been Arteta’s increased attack options this season, as Leandro Trossard demonstrated by scoring at Stamford Bridge after coming off the bench.
After being dropped from the Belgium team, he had another injury doubt of his own. The winger was cleared to travel to Chelsea once more, though, and proved his value with yet another strong performance, perhaps winning a spot in the starting XI against Sevilla.
There was a surprising absence for midfielder Fabio Vieira, who is currently the only long-term problem for Arsenal to manage outside of Jurrien Timber. The Portuguese star was not included in the squad for the meeting at SW6, the first time in 20 matchdays for a league game this year.
There was no explanation provided as to why Vieira was left out, in contrast to Aaron Ramsdale, who missed the match and was replaced on the bench by third-choice goalkeeper Karl Hein after giving birth to his newborn boy on Friday. The Gunners frequently provide an explanation, just as they did with Thomas Partey or Ramsdale in the past.
Football.london is aware that Arteta had a good set of substitutes selected, including Kai Havertz, Eddie Nketiah, Trossard, Emile Smith Rowe, and Partey himself, and that this was only a selection decision. Whether Vieira will be selected for Tuesday night is currently unknown.
This season, he has participated in both group stage matches. He started the loss to Lens but was removed before the hour mark. He now has to fight to regain his position on the team.
After Oleksandr Zinchenko was again replaced early in the match against Sevilla, Arsenal supporters also demanded that Takehiro Tomiyasu be given the start. With Zinchenko joining the team late after preseason, the Japanese full-back has seen some action this season. Even though there is no indication that he is having fitness issues, it is unsettling to see such a crucial player leave games early.
Martin Odegaard, the captain, cannot be claimed to be the same. Although he continues to play every game for Arsenal, he has had trouble lately regaining the form that saw him score 15 goals and provide seven assists from midfield the previous season. In the wake of one of his least noteworthy performances since joining the team, some have outright called for his removal. The majority of the team’s good effort has been centered around him this season, but after such a rigorous start to the year and fixtures with Norway, there is a potential for Arteta to rotate if he so chooses. He started both of the group games prior to this one.
Arteta’s goalie presents him with the other major problem. David Raya’s somewhat rocky start to life continued as he was caught off guard by Mykhailo Mudryk’s surprise shot-cum-cross in the second half and came dangerously close to handing Cole Palmer a third goal with an errant ball from the back.
Since making his debut against Everton, he has been without a doubt the best option. However, with Ramsdale returning to practice in advance of the game, there is now real competition, and a rotation would be wise in this contest. The Gunners’ next match is against Sheffield United on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium.