Mikel Arteta admits that growing concerns over Mohamed Elneny’s knee injury could force Arsenal back into the market for midfield cover before the transfer window shuts.
Elneny was injured in training before Arsenal’s win over Tottenham earlier this month and with the Egyptian facing a lengthy lay-off, the Premier League leaders have an unwelcome complication.
Arteta has strengthened in defence by signing Jakub Kiwior from Spezia and in attack with the addition of Leandro Trossard from Brighton but is worried about a lack of cover behind Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey.
Albert Sambi Lokonga is yet to convince that he can be a long-term solution in defensive midfield and Arsenal, who are expected to move for West Ham’s Declan Rice in the summer, could look for short-term solutions before Tuesday’s deadline. There is interest in Everton’s Amadou Onana and the possibility of a move for Juventus’s Weston McKennie.
“We need some more cover in midfield ideally if we can,” Arteta said. “In this market it’s pretty complicated to do that. The most important thing is that we get the performances and the time on the pitch that we need with the players we have available today that are already really good.”
Arteta, whose side visit Manchester City in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday, did not sound hopeful about Elneny. “He had some issues with his knee that we are assessing at the moment and we will have to see how he evolves in the next couple of days,” he said. “There are concerns, especially because Mo is a player who never complains about anything. But let’s see.”
Arteta was pressed for an update on Gabriel Jesus. The striker has suggested that he could be back from his knee injury in the next four to five weeks. “With him, I don’t know,” Arteta said. “He wants to be here next week but it’s unrealistic. He’s pushing and driving everyone to the limit. I can’t give you an answer. Hopefully it will be weeks and not months, but it was a serious injury and we need to respect that process as well.”
Arsenal are five points ahead of City and have a game in hand on Pep Guardiola’s team but Arteta, who could rotate, rejected suggestions that the Cup tie could have a psychological bearing on the title race. The two sides are yet to meet in the Premier League this season.
“I think they will be two very different games,” Arteta said. “And to put similarities into them, it is very unreal, mainly for the players who will be on the pitch. The context is extremely different. It is important to play well and to win and that gives you more momentum.”
Arteta, who was Guardiola’s assistant before joining Arsenal, added that his relationship with City’s manager has not changed now that they are fighting each other for the title.
“I always hoped that that was going to be the case one day and it’s happening this season,” he said. “That’s not going to change any friendship, the moments that we have, how important he is in my life, how important he is in my profession. We’re both willing to win and defend our clubs in any way.”