Nketiah chance, Partey replacement: 3 ways Arsenal can line up amid Mikel Arteta’s January blow – Football.London

Following a miserable start to the 2021/2022 Premier League campaign, with zero points on the board after the first three fixtures, Arsenal have developed much-needed consistency over a large sample size of games.

The Gunners are currently sitting in fourth place during the Christmas run-up, with fifth-place West Ham four points behind the north Londoners.

Manager Mikel Arteta will hope that his men can continue to rack up points during the second half of the season, but there certainly will be plenty of challenges along the way, starting with the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Thomas Partey (Ghana), Mohamed Elneny (Egypt), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) and Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast) are all expected to be participating in the tournament so it will be interesting to see how Arteta alters his starting 11 with the blow of losing four first-teamers.

Here, football.london looks at three different ways Arsenal could line up in the absence of these players.

Partey replacement

With Aubameyang’s future heavily in doubt following his latest disciplinary breach, Partey is expected to be the only major miss for the Gunners throughout January.

Both he and Granit Xhaka have acted as a strong shield in front of the backline in Arsenal’s last three Premier League encounters, with both players complimenting each other’s attributes within the engine room of the team.

Arteta values Switzerland international Xhaka highly and sees him as crucial to the overall team functionality, so the only question marks revolve around who will be partnering the 29-year-old in the double pivot.

When looking at current internal solutions, Albert Sambi Lokonga is the best option.

Whilst the young Belgium international is raw and requires further development, he’s still managed to showcase his talent in many games against the likes of Leicester, Aston Villa and Newcastle.

With regards to the rest of the line-up, it would be unchanged from the one that was selected against Leeds United at Elland Road.

Smith Rowe introduction

Alternatively, Arteta could look to bring Hale End graduate Emile Smith Rowe back into the starting 11.

The former Huddersfield loanee has been left on the bench in the Gunners’ last four Premier League games but has still been able to make a desirable impact when called into action, notching goals against both West Ham and Leeds.

Given Martinelli’s previous injury concerns, there is the expectation that Arteta will look to manage the Brazillian’s minutes sensibly, with Smith Rowe getting more starts in future games.

Nketiah’s chance

Whilst Alexandre Lacazette has been a key facilitator in linking attacks together in deeper areas, the Frenchman’s form in front of goal is concerning.

The former Lyon striker has only managed two goals in 13 league appearances and given the fact that Aubameyang will be absent, this could be a great opportunity for Eddie Nketiah to get minutes under his belt.

Although it doesn’t currently seem likely that the England Under-21 international will extend his current deal, regular game time in the Premier League could potentially change his mind.

Nketiah managed to grab a well-earned hat-trick in the Gunners’ most recent performance against Sunderland in the EFL Cup and he will be pretty confident in his ability to deliver a similar impact in the league.

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