How Arsenal could line up with full-strength side once Arteta's nine 'big' players return – but will team save his job?
MIKEL ARTETA bemoaned having nine 'big, senior players' unavailable for Sunday's defeat to Chelsea.
But would the return of virtually an entire starting XI make the difference and save his job?
New signings Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard were not ready to feature against the Blues at the Emirates.
The former Sheffield United stopper will look to oust Bernd Leno as the No1 choice between the sticks.
In front of him, centre-back pairing Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes look on course to be the first-choice duo.
White missed the Chelsea loss after testing positive for coronavirus while Gabriel is recovering from a knee injury sustained before the Olympics with Brazil.
Left-back Kieran Tierney started Sunday's game but limped off in the second half with a quad problem – and Arteta is unsure when the Scot will return.
The right-back problem continues to rumble on with Hector Bellerin probably the best option but linked with an exit and currently sidelined with a thigh strain.
Cedric Soares struggled against Chelsea but Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are other options, too.
Further forward, Thomas Partey has also been missing after getting injured in pre-season against Chelsea – Eddie Nketiah also damaged his ankle in the same game and both are out until after the international break.
The £45million man is the top option in a midfield two with Granit Xhaka forcing himself back into the starting XI – although Albert Sambi Lokonga will hope to keep his place instead of the Swiss.
As for the front four, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Odegaard and Bukayo Saka behind Alexandre Lacazette is arguably the best attack at Arteta's disposal with a wealth of experience.
But Saka returned late to pre-season following his summer excursions and Aubameyang and Lacazette self-isolated after contracting Covid-19.
That has meant Nicolas Pepe and Emile Smith Rowe have played all 180 minutes so far this term with Gabriel Martinelli 150, Florin Balogun 70 and Reiss Nelson 19.
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It is unlikely Arsenal will be back to full strength next weekend when they head to the Etihad to face Manchester City.
But Arteta remains confident his side's fortunes will turn around after the worst start to a season in the club's history.
He said: "It’s really challenging at the moment. We’re missing nine players, and the majority of them are big senior players. It’s what we have.
“We put a team out there that will probably be unprecedented in the history of this football club. But credit to the boys how they’re trying the passion that they tried to bring to the team.
“They are trying their best but at the moment it’s not enough to win football matches.
"Hopefully things will get better when the players are back.
"They will need some time to get back as well because they have lost a lot of football.
"Hopefully, we will see a different squad, a difference in the way we play and different results. The story can change.
"The good thing is the narrative in football changes really quickly.
"The circumstances are really difficult and probably unprecedented. Feeling sorry for ourselves doesn’t help, though."
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