For the first time in the Premier League this season, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta may be forced to make a change to his centre-back partnership. The Gunners are set to face London rivals Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium, where a win would see them extend their lead at the top to eight points over Manchester City.
Arsenal go into the match having won five consecutive top-flight matches, while Crystal Palace are yet to taste victory in 2023, leading to Patrick Vieira’s sacking on Friday. Arteta’s side will be desperate to claim the three points after their shock Europa League exit on Thursday, as Sporting Lisbon won on penalties.
To make matters worse for Arsenal, both Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba were forced off with first-half injuries. Tomiyasu was spotted on crutches after the match after picking up a knee knock, while Saliba appeared to have suffered a muscle problem in his lower back.
Commenting on the pair ahead of the Palace clash, Arteta said: “Tomiyasu looks pretty serious, for his reaction straight away and what he said to me. Obviously, it’s very early and difficult to know. William, I don’t know. He had some discomfort and could not carry on, so we had to take him off.”
It is understood that Saliba will be assessed over whether he is fit enough to face Palace, with the Frenchman currently a doubt to take part. Though Japanese right-back Tomiyasu looks set for a spell on the sidelines after damaging his knee.
With that in mind, Arsenal’s potential line-up against their south London opponents could see Aaron Ramsdale keep his place between the sticks. Should Arteta refuse to risk Saliba, Rob Holding could come in for his first Premier League start of the season where he would partner Gabriel Magalhaes at centre-back. Ben White would be the ideal choice to slot in his natural position, but with Tomiyasu out, he will have to keep his place at right-back.
January signing Jakub Kiwior is also another centre-back option, but the Poland international is yet to feature in the league, with Arteta also preferring not to play two left-footed centre-halves together. Oleksandr Zinchenko would then start at left-back instead of Kieran Tierney to complete the back-four.
Thomas Partey would then feature as a lone defensive midfielder, with skipper Martin Odegaard and Granit Xhaka playing in their usual box-to-box roles. Bukayo Saka is likely to keep his place on the right wing, with Gabriel Martinelli deployed on the opposite flank.
Arteta then has a big decision to make over who leads the line, with Leandro Trossard excelling in the false nine role. The Belgian has started the last five games, where he has chipped in with as many assists – with three coming in last week’s 3-0 away win at Fulham. But Gabriel Jesus is now fully fit, with the Brazilian starting against Sporting on Thursday night. Though Arteta may decide to start Jesus from the bench before unleashing him after the international break.
In conclusion, Arsenal may have to make changes at the back for their upcoming match against Crystal Palace due to injuries sustained by Tomiyasu and Saliba. However, they still have several options available to them and will be looking to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table with a win over their London rivals.