Both Mikel Arteta and Thomas Tuchel have selection issues to contend with ahead of Sunday’s game at the Emirates
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Romelu Lukaku are in contention for Sunday’s game (Photo: Getty)
Both Mikel Arteta and Thomas Tuchel could be without key players for Sunday’s match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates.
Arsenal’s preparations for their Premier League opener against Brentford last Friday were impacted when both first-choice strikers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, were struck down by illness.
Arteta confirmed in his press conference on Friday that the pair, along with winger Willian and backup goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson, had all tested positive for Covid-19 before the game and the Arsenal boss said he was “surprised” that it was allowed to go ahead as a result.
“I don’t know if they can train in a few hours and if they are going to be able to compete at the weekend, I don’t know,” Arteta said when asked whether Aubameyang and Lacazette could be available.
“They’ve had some tough days. Lacazette still hasn’t trained as he’s not been good. Aubameyang trained yesterday but they were affected by the virus. They were ill.”
He added: “I was surprised it wasn’t postponed, but the regulators decided the best thing to do was to play the game.
“What we did is what we had to do, through the club, through the club doctor as well. He explained the situation, how it developed and the risk that we [had to] consider.”
If Aubameyang is unable to start, either Gabriel Martinelli or Folarin Balogun could lead the line.
On a more positive note for Arteta, Martin Odegaard has joined the club permanently from Real Madrid after impressing on loan during the second half of last season. The playmaker will not be available to face Chelsea, though, as he still needs to be granted a visa.
Tuchel’s squad has also been impacted by Covid with Christian Pulisic ruled out of Sunday’s match after testing positive for the virus.
“He had a positive test and needs to follow the protocols,” Tuchel revealed. “He’s not in training and not available for the game.”
Romelu Lukaku could be in line to make his second debut for the Blues though after rejoining the club he left for Everton in 2014 in a £97.5m deal from Inter earlier this month.
“We have one more training to go but the week was a heavy load for him because he was in the group with the other late starters,” Tuchel said.
“Today was low intensity and tomorrow we will have important training before the match. We are hoping he is on the pitch for Sunday and things look like it.”
Tuchel also provided a positive update on Hakim Ziyech and N’Golo Kante after the pair missed Chelsea’s 3-0 win against Crystal Palace last weekend due to shoulder and hamstring injuries respectively.
“Hakim and N’Golo were both in training today, had absolutely no problems,” he added. “We need to decide after tomorrow’s training session but right now, it seems very positive that both can be in the squad for Sunday.”
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno; Chambers, White, Holding, Tierney; Lokonga, Xhaka; Pepe, Smith Rowe, Saka; Aubameyang.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell; Mount, Werner, Lukaku.