Arsenal face Villarreal in the Europa League this week and manager Mikel Arteta will once again be without some key first-team players on Thursday.
Arsenal’s European hopes are hanging on by a thread and they will need to do a lot to turn around that 2-1 deficit from the first leg in Spain.
The first big miss will be defender David Luiz who recently underwent knee surgery but has now suffered another setback in the road to full fitness. The centre-back started the game vs Newcastle United but then had to be taken off in the 53rd minute of the match.
And now Mikel Arteta has confirmed that Luiz might be out for some time: “We don’t know[for how long he will be on the sidelines].
“He felt something in his hamstring so it’s not good news. He’s put in such a shift to be back with the team for the last few weeks after the knee surgery. It’s a real shame.”
Thankfully, the Arsenal boss has plenty of option in that area of the pitch so, in the absence of Luiz, either Gabriel or Pablo Mari will pair up with Rob Holding in central defence on Thursday.
Kieran Tierney is going to be another big miss for the Gunners as he is yet to fully recover from his knee injury while Lacazette is also not going to be available for the second leg.
Talking about these two players, the manager said: “They haven’t trained with the team yet so I think they’re unlikely to be.”
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Lacazette will be replaced by Aubameyang in that centre-forward’s role meaning Nicolas Pepe will get another chance at playing on the left flank, a position where he has found a lot of joy in recent weeks.
The absence of Tierney could be a massive blow for Mikel Arteta since Granit Xhaka playing at left-back is clearly the weak point in the line-up. And this is something that Unai Emery’s side exploited very well in the first leg.
The Arsenal boss has shown no signs of using another player in that role so Granit Xhaka will have to pull up his socks and give his 100% as a full-back on Thursday.