Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Mikel Arteta is six steps from Arsenal’s dream international break after Kieran Tierney return

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The dream scenario for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta heading into the first international break of the 2022/23 season would have been no fresh injury concerns.

Now, whilst those prayers haven’t exactly been answered, the Spaniard still finds himself in a predicament where he’s just two more rounds of fixtures away from avoiding the worst-case scenario ahead of his side’s return to Premier League action in the North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur.

The one concern most – if not all – managers will have for any international break is ensuring their players return in the same physical state they left in. Arteta would have been no different and his biggest concerns were likely to be around Martin Odegaard, Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey.

With regards to the latter pair, this is due to their less than impressive injury records since arriving in north London. Meanwhile, the Arsenal captain was a doubt to link up with the Norway squad after missing the 3-0 win over Brentford just before the break with a calf problem.

There has been a concern over Partey after he withdrew from the Ghana starting line-up to face Brazil and he has since been allowed to return to London for further assessment on a suspected knee injury. Joining the midfielder in the early returns lounge are Tierney and fellow defender Takehiro Tomiyasu.

An explanation for the Japan international’s withdrawal was “due to club circumstances”, whilst the Gunners aren’t taking any chances with Tierney, who suffered a head injury during Scotland’s win over the Republic of Ireland and have recalled him as a precautionary measure.

That being said, Odegaard starting for Norway against Slovenia on Saturday evening and being able to complete 71 minutes unscathed is certainly fantastic news as the 23-year-old has proved his fitness ahead of two big games for him this week for club as well as country.

William Saliba has completed his international commitments with France, which means he will have begun the process of returning to London – if he’s not already touched down safely. So, for Arteta’s dream international break to be confirmed, all he needs is for his six remaining Arsenal first-team players still on duty to be managed sensibly.

Bukayo Saka could be rested if Gareth Southgate decides to rotate the England team for what is effectively a dead-rubber against Germany in the final UEFA Nations League group fixture, but Aaron Ramsdale might start and Karl Hein could win another cap for Estonia as they take on San Marino.

On Tuesday, Matt Turner could be in goal for USA against Saudi Arabia, Odegaard is expected to feature for Norway in their decider against Serbia, whilst Granit Xhaka is likely to captain Switzerland against the Czech Republic in their bid to avoid relegation from League A.

Though the returns of Partey, Tierney and Tomiyasu have come much earlier than anticipated, it could work in the club’s favour as they’ll be able to wrap the trio up in cotton wool and Arteta will be hopeful that the good news continues to flow during the final round of international fixtures that affects Arsenal.

The Spaniard went into the break and was handed a triple injury boost with Cedric Soares, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Reiss Nelson expected to be available for selection against Spurs. In addition, those considered part of his strongest XI such as Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus should be fresh after not being called up.

This means with the exception of Mohamed Elneny – a long-term absentee – and Emile Smith Rowe, every single first-team player is fit. But come Tuesday night, Arteta will discover if his near full-strength Arsenal squad is still intact.

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