Mikel Arteta has already hinted that he will take necessary risks with his Arsenal team selection for this weekend’s North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur.
With FA Cup matters on the back burner until the end of January, Arsenal’s attention returns to the Premier League title race and a massive North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur to begin with on Sunday afternoon.
Then seven days later the Gunners welcome Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium. The good news heading into this weekend’s fixture is that Mikel Arteta has confirmed he has no fresh injury concerns despite Bukayo Saka needing treatment before being substituted against Oxford United on Monday night.
That means, once again, Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson will be the two Arsenal first-team players ruled out of the visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium through injury and it’s almost certain they won’t be back in time for the clash against the Red Devils, so the Spaniard knows what he will be working with.
Although, as Saka and William Saliba are the two senior players still in immediate danger of missing the Man United game later this month, could the threat of a one-game suspension hand Arteta somewhat of a team selection dilemma going into the North London Derby?
As confirmed by the FA in their ‘Information for Players on Disciplinary Procedures’ 2022-23 season guide at the beginning of the campaign, any player who accumulates five bookings before the cut-off point of 19 matches will have to serve an automatic one-match ban.
After being cautioned in the second half of the Gunners’ 4-2 win over Brighton and Hove Albion on New Year’s Eve, Saka is now on four yellow cards in the Premier League this season and as a result, if booked against Spurs he will miss the Man United clash a week later.
Saliba is in the same boat, but even though the Frenchman has been on four yellow cards since the 1-0 win over Leeds United in October and has been playing on the edge ever since, it might be a concern that he was booked in the reverse meeting with Spurs at the Emirates, so he must time his tackles to perfection if he features on Sunday.
Now, if recent decisions are anything to go by, then it’s unlikely that the aforementioned pair will be left out of the starting line-up against Tottenham. Not only were they risked in the goalless draw with Newcastle United, but they’ve both started every single Premier League fixture up to this point, which simply highlights their importance to the team.
With 17 games of the Premier League season played for Arsenal, it means that Saka, Saliba and the rest of Arteta’s squad have another two games to avoid a yellow card suspension. Of course, as the campaign paused for just over a month for the World Cup, it won’t be until after the Man United fixture on January 22 that the Gunners reach the aforementioned cut-off point.
The next Arsenal players with the most yellow cards across the squad are Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka, Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes – all of whom are on three – so they also have to watch their step.
Whilst another booking against Spurs wouldn’t rule any out of the Man United clash – unless they are shown a second yellow against Tottenham and are subsequently sent off – if any are booked in each of the next two games they would be suspended for the game against Everton at the beginning of February.
Then there’s Thomas Partey on two. Meanwhile, Gabriel Martinelli, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Eddie Nketiah are all on one yellow card, so will be able to relax over the next couple of weeks as they are not in danger of being suspended via this particular scenario.
Gabriel Jesus has also been booked four times in the Premier League this season, but the fact the Brazil international has already been ruled out for possibly up to three months after undergoing knee surgery, by the time he returns to action he will no longer be a suspension risk.