Arsenal stars have been playing across the continent.
One of the drawbacks of being a club with recognised talent is the dreaded breaks from club football. Arsenal aren’t alone, but these new three-game breaks are adding layers of worry to an already dangerous predicament.
In dire need of an immediate response from the Aston Villa drubbing, heading north to an all-action Leeds United side who play in sixth gear from the first minute, Mikel Arteta can expect a battle on his hands this Sunday.
For most of the players away with their respective nations there won’t be an overly congested schedule to face, with the likes of Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, for example, featuring fleetingly and if anything benefiting from time away from north London to link up with new faces.
But an area of weakness for Arsenal in regards to depth is left-back, where Kieran Tierney has been faced with a grueling set of matches.
Taking on Serbia in the Balkans, he played 120 minutes of the historic penalty shootout win – a magnificent achievement for him and his country – followed by the full 90 against Slovakia in their recent defeat. With Andrew Robertson out injured, Tierney’s importance to the side is heightened and he’s largely expected to play another full game away in Israel on Wednesday.
The Scots lead in their Nations League group and bettering the Czech Republic’s result will see them finish top of the pile. 300+ minutes of football in six days is far from ideal before a tough test at Elland Road.
It may not appear an issue at first if he starts, but we can expect a drop off in sharpness which can’t be afforded against a Marcelo Bielsa side.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe have all been away in Africa which, again, is not ideal, however it’s a better scenario with the trio playing their final matches on Monday and Tuesday respectively.
However it is Tierney who Arteta will be keeping a close eye on.
There is also Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka, who have another Nations League game awaiting them, having featured for the majority of the opening two fixtures for their nations. Both are due to start the final match.
Of course, Leeds have players away with the same issues, but they don’t face the prospect of Sead Kolasinac starting, something Arsenal may if Tierney suffers burnout.