By George Sessions, PA
Mikel Arteta has revealed Arsenal are “really short” on numbers ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup tie with Nottingham Forest but insisted the third-round clash will go ahead.
Covid-19 continues to impact clubs up and down the country with the Gunners no different after seeing numerous members of their squad contract the virus in recent weeks while their manager has only just recovered from coronavirus having missed last weekend’s defeat to Manchester City.
The Premier League side are set to know more about availability on Saturday, but they will definitely be without Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to their African Cup of Nations involvement.
Gabriel Magalhaes is also suspended and Ainsley Maitland-Niles is leaving to sign for Roma on loan for the rest of the season.
“We are really short with numbers, really, really short,” Arteta admitted. “We have some issues, but we will know more tomorrow.
“We want to play and that is how we are approaching every game. We want to do everything to play the game and don’t expect anything different than to play on Sunday.
“I feel good. I had a few rough days but I feel in top form, and I was so happy to leave my house after being there for seven or eight days, so I’m really good.”
Given Arsenal’s concerns, the midweek postponement of Thursday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg with Liverpool may have been welcomed.
The Reds were forced to shut their training ground after Jurgen Klopp and various players and staff all returned positive tests which forced the EFL to push the tie back two weeks to January 20.
But Arteta added: “We wanted to play the match, but you have to understand that clubs are having a lot of issues.
“And then again we have people who are in charge who make a final decision over whether the game is played or not.
“I believe they should have enough argument not to play the game if they managed to postpone the match, but we wanted to play.”
Sunday’s match with Forest could represent an opportunity for Eddie Nketiah, who will be out of contract in the summer and continues to be linked with a move away from the Emirates.
The Arsenal academy graduate has scored five times this season but only made six appearances.
“I already spoke about Eddie about how I feel about him, the intentions of the club and where we are,” Arteta insisted.
“He is with us and every day he shows me and club he wants to stay with us. I will keep having those discussions with him, but he knows we want him at the club.”
One attacker expected to move on during the January transfer window is Folarin Balogun but only on a loan deal until the end of the campaign.
The Gunners boss revealed: “With Flo, we will see in the next week or so what is the final decision with that.”
💬 "When a player feels this way and has a strong argument, it’s very difficult to turn it away."
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 7, 2022
Maitland-Niles’ future has already been finalised, at least for the next few months, with the versatile ace linking up with Roma on loan.
“Ainsley came to me and explained the reasons why he thought that the best thing for his career right now is to move away,” Arteta said.
“He believes the opportunity in Rome and to work under Jose (Mourinho) was a really good one. We already had this conversation in the summer and we decided to keep him at the club.
“We said we would assess the situation again in December and being fair with the amount of minutes he has played, he was entitled to that opportunity.
“When a player feels that way and has a strong argument like he had, it is very difficult to turn that away so we decided to let him go and we wish him the best.”
Arteta refused to discuss reports Aubameyang, who was recently stripped of the Arsenal captaincy due to an disciplinary breach, had tested positive for Covid-19 while away with Gabon after being seen at a party in Dubai with his international team-mates.
“For me, it is difficult to judge when the players are away, and I don’t know what they were able to do or not,” the 39-year-old added.