Arsenal have had to switch their preparations around this week after their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg tie with Liverpool was postponed on account of the visitors’ growing absentee list.
That fixture has been rescheduled for two weeks’ time, meaning that focus has shifted towards Sunday’s FA Cup third round tie against Nottingham Forest on Sunday. And the endless stream of transfer rumours, of course.
Having sanctioned the loan departure of Ainsley Maitland-Niles to Roma in the build-up to the cup tie, questions have been asked of the plan Mikel Arteta and co have in place with only two senior midfielders left to man the fort across the January period.
With Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey involved with their respective countries at AFCON, the likelihood is that the pair will miss five matches for the Gunners. All it takes is an injury or positive Covid test for either Sambi Lokonga or Granit Xhaka and Arsenal will be in trouble.
Arsenal star Charlie Patino in line for FA Cup start against Nottingham Forest after Granit Xhaka selection blow spotted in training
As per football.london, Xhaka was not seen at London Colney on the Thursday leading up to Sunday’s trip to the City Ground. There is no word on the reason for his absence, but it does present some worrying scenarios that could force Arsenal to act quickly in the market.
For the immediate future, however, Charlie Patino is set to be involved with the first team against Nottingham Forest and could even be in line for a start. While Xhaka’s unknown absence is a concern, the overwhelming likelihood was that Patino would be involved anyway.
There are no better opportunities remaining this season to blood some youngsters into the first team, and with Patino having made his debut against Sunderland in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals, a game he scored in, he is the obvious candidate to come into central midfield should either of Xhaka or Sambi become unavailable.
It is a worrying scenario regarding Xhaka, though. An essential member of this squad with the numbers in his position heavily depleted, the length of his spell on the sidelines – which at this stage could be just a single day or even a sanctioned day off – could either thrust a heap of responsibility on Patino’s shoulders, forced a positional swap for another member of the squad, or prompt immediate transfer action.
In the mean time, it will be exciting to see Patino in action again for Arsenal, just hopefully there won’t be a repeat of Arsene Wenger’s one and only FA Cup third-round exit at the same stadium four years ago.