Arsenal in for a tough January after FA Cup defeat

Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah reacts after a missed chance during the Emirates FA Cup third round match at

Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah reacts after a missed chance during the Emirates FA Cup third round match against Nottingham Forest. - Credit: PA

After a superb performance against Manchester City on New Year's Day, Arsenal had appeared to turn a corner, ready to kick on and mount a strong charge on all fronts.

Ten days later and the Gunners look like they are in for a tough January.

Since the Manchester City game Arsenal’s squad has shrunk significantly. Thomas Partey, off the back of his best game for the Gunners, departed for the African Cup of Nations, joined by Nicolas Pepe, Mohammed Elneny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Granit Xhaka and Folarin Balogun both tested positive for Covid-19, whilst Takehiro Tomiyasu and Emile Smith Rowe are battling niggling muscle injuries.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has departed for Italy, joining Jose Mourniho’s Roma side on loan, with an option to buy the player at the end of the season.

Add to those Gabriel’s suspension, carried over from the Manchester City game, and we saw against Nottingham Forest a glimpse of the Arsenal squad to come over the next few weeks. 

As we saw at the beginning of the season, the majority of Arsenal’s depth players are not adequate replacements for those in the starting 11 and leaning on them in the FA Cup defeat against Nottingham Forest yielded an unsurprising performance and result.

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The biggest concern through January is the lack of midfield players with Arsenal down to the bare bones.

Albert Sambi Lokonga has just returned from having Covid-19 and is still adapting to English football, whilst 18-year-old Charlie Patino made his first Arsenal start, and second appearance, against Nottingham Forest and his age showed.

Martin Odegaard has picked up form over the past month and has held down a starting spot in Arsenal’s strongest 11 but he will need to find another level to help carry the midfield over the next few weeks.

Mikel Arteta has hinted at a January signing and with two legs of the EFL Cup semi-final against Liverpool sandwiching a north London Derby in the space of a week, Arsenal may have to act fast to remedy their lack of options in the middle of the park.

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