The Gunners could welcome three key players back into the fold when they take in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final
Mikel Arteta has revealed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Kieran Tierney are all in line to return for Arsenal against Villarreal.
Arsenal supporters have been sweating on the fitness of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Tierney ahead of the first leg of their Europa League semi-final tie, which is scheduled to take place at El Madrigal on Thursday night.
All three players were absent for the Gunners’ 1-0 defeat at Everton in the Premier League last week, but Arteta is planning to welcome them back into the fold for his side’s trip to Spain.
What’s been said?
Aubameyang has been sidelined for the last two weeks due to Malaria and Lacazette has been recovering from a hamstring issue, while Arteta stated that he didn’t expect to see Tierney play again this season after he suffered knee ligament damage against Liverpool on April 3.
However, when asked about the condition of the trio at a pre-match press conference, the Arsenal manager told reporters: “They are all in contention, all of them – including Aubameyang, Laca and Kieran. They are all in contention for the game.”
Arteta added on Tierney’s swift recovery from serious injury: “He didn’t need the surgery that at the beginning we were afraid of. Then he has been working like a beast every single day.
“And I don’t know if he is going to make it tomorrow, but certainly he wants to be as close as possible to that football pitch to give himself the best possible chance.”
The bigger picture
Arsenal will need to be at their best to make it past Villarreal, who are now coached by their former manager Unai Emery, and book a Europa League final date with either Manchester United or Roma.
The manner of the Gunners’ latest domestic defeat to Everton suggests they will struggle to create clear openings once again without Aubameyang, Lacazette and Tierney, meaning Arteta may be forced to take a calculated risk.
However, the Spaniard has vowed not to pick any players who are not capable of matching the physical demands required for the 90-minute contest.
“We do need them because we know that we have some players that are in contention and they are the ones that can make the difference in a big tie like this,” said Arteta.
“But the word risk, I don’t like it. I want to put players on the pitch that can perform and feel secure they can perform. If it is a risk or we are going to take a gamble, I don’t think it is the right game to do it.”