ARSENAL will resume their Premier League campaign on Boxing Day with a tasty London Derby.
The league leaders will welcome West Ham to the Emirates on Monday night for what promises to be a fiery festive fixture.
But their starting XI for the visit of the Hammers will differ from the side that beat Wolves before the World Cup-enforced international break.
That’s down to a handful of injuries and players participating in Qatar 2022.
Summer signing Gabriel Jesus will miss the match after undergoing knee surgery – which is expected to keep him on the sidelines until March.
Jesus’ fellow Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli will likely deputise for him.
Reiss Nelson will also miss the match after picking up a thigh injury during the Gunners‘ 2-0 defeat to Juventus last week.
Emile Smith Rowe is in contention to return to the fold following his recovery from a groin injury.
Despite missing all three of the north Londoners’ mid-season friendly, left-back Oleksandr Zinechenko is also a potential starter.
But Kieran Tierney is likely to start ahead of the Ukranian, who is understood to be still dealing with the lingering effects of a calf strain.
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The absence of Jesus could prompt Gunners boss Mikel Arteta to tweak his 4-3-3 formation.
Martinelli will likely be the focal point of the attack, with Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka just behind him.
Predicted Arsenal XI to face West Ham: Ramsdale; White; Saliba; Gabriel Tierney; Xhaka, Partey, Odegaard; Smith Rowe, Saka; Martinelli
Arsenal currently lead defending Premier League champions Manchester City by five points going into the frantic festive fixture period.
And Arteta has hinted he’s not against the idea of dipping into the transfer market to ensure his troops’ title charge doesn’t fall flat.
The Spaniard said of Jesus’ injury: “It’s a huge blow for us, obviously.
“He’s such an important player: he’s brought something very different to the team and it’s impossible to replace him.
“But we have other players, other alternatives and we’ll try to get that sorted.
“The transfer window is another option.
“I think [Jesus] is a unique player but Eddie [Nketiah] has incredible qualities as well for the way we want to play.
“We have other alternatives in that we can play Martinelli up front as well.
“We are currently a little bit short in terms of upfront positions but getting Emile [Smith Rowe] back is going to be a big one.”