Mikel Arteta has told reporters that Arsenal are struggling for numbers ahead of the game against Nottingham Forest although he stressed the club want to go ahead with the fixture.
Mikel Arteta will return to the dugout for Arsenal’s FA Cup third round time at Nottingham Forest on Sunday – if the game goes ahead.
It was a fixture already in some doubt due to Forest’s own situation (more on that below) and Arteta’s comments will have done nothing to increase confidence that the game will go ahead as planned.
“It was for COVID and for injuries as well,” Arteta said at his press conference.
“I don’t want to give anything away as you can imagine. We are really short with numbers. We want to play and that’s how we are approaching every game.”
When pushed further on it, Arteta added, “We are really, really short on numbers.”
He was then asked if the game could be called off and he replied “We want to play.”
That, as you will notice, is not actually an answer to the question.
It’s not yet clear which players could miss out.
We know that Gabriel will serve out his one-game suspension after his red card against Manchester City.
Eddie Nketiah will also likely miss out due to his Covid status and Sead Kolasinac is only coming back from his awful ankle injury.
Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe are all away to AFCON, as is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, although he needn’t have bothered. He picked up Covid while out partying in Dubai and is now in isolation despite Gabon’s opening game being on Monday.
Charlie Patino, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’hand, and Omari Hutchinson could all be seen in Arsenal’s first-team training photos on Wednesday, as the squad prepare for the game.
There’s some suggestion that Granit Xhaka could be absent for Sunday’s match, which would open up a spot for one of them, likely Patino.
And, of course, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is in Rome.
Nottingham Forest wrote on their club website at the weekend that they’d had to call off their Championship fixture against Barnsley on Monday due to a combination of injuries and positive Covid-19 tests.
Forest explained that they had less than the minimum number of players available to fulfil a fixture.
At the time, Forest added that their game against Arsenal remained on. But they added that “should the situation change, supporters will be advised immediately through official club channels”.
This is obviously a concerning update for Arsenal, considering the Covid issues surrounding their League Cup tie against Liverpool.
There’s a lot of uncertainty over which games they’ll actually be able to play in the next week or so.
Some supporters are starting to worry about Gabriel Magalhaes, who still has a one-game suspension to serve.
It would obviously be better if he could serve it before the crucial upcoming North London derby.
It’s still very likely Arsenal will have a game before then, though.
As mentioned, the Forest game is currently still going ahead, and Liverpool’s Covid outbreak would have to be seriously bad to last for two full weeks resulting in the second leg being called off as well.