Mikel Arteta is likely to have the luxury of freshening up his Arsenal side for Thursday night’s Europa League decider against Sporting CP.
With the round of 16 tie delicately poised after a 2-2 draw in the first leg last week, the Spaniard will be well aware that a goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium won’t be enough for progression as a result of the away goals rule being abolished, therefore only victory will confirm a place in the quarter-final.
Considering the Gunners must score it’s a massive boost that Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard are fit and available for selection again. The pair missed out in Lisbon and their absences along with Eddie Nketiah was highlighted by Arteta after the game: “We lost a bit of threat today with the four players we’re missing in our front line,” he said in the post-match press conference.
So in the space of a week, the Arsenal manager has gone from having limited options across his forward line to facing somewhat of a selection dilemma with regard to who gets the nod as the central striker as Trossard claimed three assists against Fulham, whilst Jesus looked sharp in a 12-minute cameo off the bench.
Of course, considering the Brazilian is still short of match sharpness after three months on the sidelines with a knee injury, it would be a surprise if he’s handed a start on Thursday night.
But whilst Arteta mulls over who should lead the Gunners’ attack at the Emirates, football.london has taken a look at what other changes the Spanish tactician could be contemplating especially as his side are back in Premier League action three days later against Crystal Palace.
Jakub Kiwior could count himself unlucky to not make the Arsenal matchday squad against Fulham at the weekend. As per Premier League rules, Arteta was only permitted to name 20 players and with it being decided that Jesus would return to the fold it meant the £21m January signing, despite travelling to Craven Cottage, missed out.
But the rules are different for the Europa League. So because Arsenal will be allowed to name a 23-man matchday squad which means up to 12 substitutes, it is likely that Kiwior is recalled and he could make his Emirates debut having made his first competitive appearance for the club in the first leg.
As Mohamed Elneny won’t feature that leaves 23 senior Arsenal players in contention to face Sporting CP. However, the aforementioned number could drop to 21 depending on Nketiah and Karl Hein’s availability.
Therefore, at least two of the club’s most promising youngsters could be named on the bench with Arteta able to select from Zach Awe, Henry Jeffcott, Zane Monlouis, James Lannin-Sweet, Reuell Walters, Mauro Bandeira, Cirjan, Ben Cottrell, Jack Henry-Francis, Bradley Ibrahim, Joel Ideho, Zine-Eddine Oulad M’Hand, Smith and Charles Sagoe Jr as they are all on Arsenal’s updated squad list, as per UEFA.com.
Now, as it’s common for two goalkeepers to be named on the bench for a Europa League fixture, James Hillson is in line to be the third-choice option once again if Hein is unavailable for selection, whilst Amario Cozier-Duberry could be called up should Nketiah not be risked.
Stars return as Saka rested
Arsenal’s bench against Fulham was the strongest it’s been in a long time. So much so that Jorginho and Emile Smith Rowe were unused substitutes. Now, was that a decision with Thursday’s game in mind? That question will be answered around about an hour before kick-off, but the pair are among several players hoping to start.
Fabio Vieira was singled out by Arteta for his performance in Lisbon and has been a regular in the competition so far, Kieran Tierney – despite being a suspension risk – is pushing for a start as are Takehiro Tomiyasu and Rob Holding, whilst Bukayo Saka could be in line for a rest.
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