Arsenal

Kai Havertz dropped, Ben White worry – Arsenal surprises to come after 19-day break

The final international break of the season leaves Arsenal with several players to return and further recoveries to be hoped

The final international break of the season has arrived and Arsenal go into it as league leaders with the trip to the Etihad Stadium on the horizon and Manchester City’s challenge waiting to test their credentials for a second successive season. The Gunners’ break was extended by the lack of an FA Cup or Premier League clash this weekend after Chelsea reached the quarter-finals and subsequently the semi-finals after a chaotic 4-2 win over Leicester City.

The break will allow many players to return to fitness and recover from injury giving Mikel Arteta even more options in his squad. He has already welcomed Fabio Vieira, Thomas Partey, Gabriel Jesus and Takehiro Tomiyasu back to the squad but very few minutes have been earned by the quartet.

Last weekend saw an under-21 game postponed after a pitch inspection at Blackburn which could have provided the Gunners a chance to give some senior stars a boost of game time, yet it wasn’t to be. There is the chance of a behind-closed-doors friendly but so far no news on that front has emerged.

The reality is however that come the end of the month, Arteta could also have Jurrien Timber back and available after the Dutchman’s recovery has continued to progress from a serious knee injury on the opening day of the season. He and the other returnees give Arteta choices which could impact what had looked an established starting line-up.

Kai Havertz has been in great form for Arsenal, scoring four and assisting two in his last four league games whilst starting at centre-forward. However, should his form dip, Gabriel Jesus is ready and waiting to reclaim that spot with Arteta a big fan of the Brazilian.

Should the aforementioned Timber indeed return, the newly mastered inverted right-back role that Ben White has taken so well to seems perfect for the Dutchman. Equally, having opened the season at left-back, Jakub Kiwior could be under threat from Timber too despite the Pole impressing in a disciplined and sturdy back line.

Not to mention that Oleksandr Zinchenko is one of the other recent returnees and another Arteta favourite. What is key come this part of the season as games come thick and fast and two-game weeks become a regularity is the Arsenal boss will need to master some line-up tweaks to keep players fresh and operating at the optimum level.

Rotation has not been a trait which Arteta has been lauded for in the past, and in the game with Porto despite having some many more options on the bench the substitutions were not made until very late on during the game. Trust is of course a factor and some of the returning stars will need to earn that from their coach.

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