As the Premier League embarks on its third international break, Mikel Arteta finds himself at a strategic juncture with his Arsenal squad.
The upcoming two-week hiatus presents a timely opportunity for much-needed rest, potentially pivotal in sustaining Arsenal’s bid for a coveted top-four finish and, dare we say, a title challenge. The Gunners, no strangers to dealing with injuries, have grappled with setbacks to key players this season, and their captain, Martin Odegaard, stands prominently on that list.
Odegaard’s recent struggles with a hip issue, compounded by a concussion sidelining him against Newcastle, Sevilla, and Burnley, led to his withdrawal from the Norwegian national team camp. A crucial absence, but one that won’t trigger a replacement, as Arsenal had foreseen this scenario in their original squad selection.
Arsenal’s reserved stance is encapsulated by Arteta’s guarded comments, stating, “I have known so much about the injury, so I’ve never really planned with Martin. It is a very normal football injury that you’ll very likely recover completely from. It’s not career-threatening.”
This setback places Odegaard in doubt for Arsenal’s return against Brentford, a challenge Arteta is likely to navigate with determination. Another setback comes in the form of Gabriel Jesus, chosen for international duty by Brazil despite a three-week absence due to a hamstring issue. FIFA rules permit national teams to evaluate and potentially hasten a player’s return, adding uncertainty to Arteta’s plans.
Arteta, uncertain about Jesus’s situation, reflects, “I’m going to talk to the doctors and him because he didn’t do any training with us. He’s far from working with the team, but it’s an internal communication between the club and the national team. The first intention is always to seek the best for the player.”
Meanwhile, Gabriel Martinelli’s inclusion in international duty despite a hamstring issue raises eyebrows, potentially suggesting a fortunate escape from a more severe injury. Ben White’s knock precludes his involvement against Burnley, with Arteta hopeful for his return against Brentford.
Minor issues plague Takehiro Tomiyasu and Jorginho, the former grappling with contact lenses and the latter nursing scrapes from robust challenges. Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe are expected to miss the clash against Brentford.
In a lingering storyline, Jurrien Timber remains sidelined after a brutal knee injury just 47 minutes into his Arsenal debut on the opening weekend. Though surgery is behind him, the rehabilitation phase prolongs his absence from footballing activity. The international break thus becomes a critical period for Arsenal’s key figures to recover, setting the stage for an intriguing winter run.