Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believes that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has taken his game to the next level and "prefers" this version of the striker.

After a poor campaign by his standards in 2020-21, Gunners captain Aubameyang is the club's top scorer in the Premier League with four goals from eight appearances, but his manager has been equally as impressed with the 32-year-old's improved all-round game.

The Gabon forward ranks second at the club for possession won in the final third in the Premier League (four) behind only Emile Smith Rowe (nine).

Aubameyang has also outperformed his expected goals (xG) value of 3.08, suggesting his finishing has been above the standard that would be expected from the chances he has been presented with.

He ranks fifth in Arsenal's squad for chances created (eight), providing one assist from those opportunities. 

Arteta feels that Aubameyang is giving off an energy that he has never done before and is becoming a more complete player in the process.

"I have never seen Auba transmit what he is doing now," Arteta told Arsenal's official website ahead of Tuesday's EFL Cup tie with fellow Premier League side Leeds United, against whom Aubameyang netted a hat-trick last season.

"Apart from the goals, the celebration when they put the ball in the net, do you see the way he runs, the purpose he has to press the ball, and when he takes it his movement, his link, how is leading the game - that is when he is changing the rest, not when he is static and then he puts the ball in the net. I prefer this Auba.

"It is clicking. It is a combination of realising that his role has to go well beyond [scoring]. What was good, or very good, two or three years ago, with his role in this team, at this club, it is not enough. He had to take a step forward."

Arteta explained that both Aubameyang and fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette have a responsibility to lead a young squad on and off the field.

"I would say the same with Laca, look what he is transmitting, not just doing or playing, what he is transmitting," Arteta continued. "For me, that is really, really important.

"They lead by example and not only there but as well at the training ground. Certain things, a role they could have had three years ago in the squad, now it has changed.

"The group's age is a little bit closer [together] so they are experiencing most of the same things and they talk a lot about it. Then we have the senior players that they have to lead and they have to take that role, and they are doing that in a different way.

"There are players now that on that pitch that they are able to transmit something and change certain behaviours and attitudes in other players. That is contagious, and for me that is leadership."

Lacazette has played a bit-part role so far this season but was handed his first league start of the campaign as Arsenal beat Aston Villa 3-1, producing an impressive display despite not getting on the scoresheet himself.

Mikel Arteta has refused to rule out a new contract for Alexandre Lacazette and says he has no concerns about the striker's motivation amid uncertainty over his future.

Lacazette came off the bench to score a late equaliser in the Gunners' 2-2 Premier League draw with Crystal Palace on Monday.

The 30-year-old forward's contract expires at the end of this season and he will be able to speak to clubs outside of England about a pre-contract agreement in January.

However, Arteta insisted the Frenchman remains a key member of the squad, praising his display against Palace and leaving the door open for fresh terms to be offered.

In all competitions at Arsenal, Lacazette has scored three goals (behind only Aubameyang) and registered one assist in just 185 minutes of football, recording the best minutes-per-goal ratio at the club with 61.67.

"[I want Lacazette to] keep doing what he’s doing, he had a good impact as well against Brighton," Arteta said ahead of the Gunners' match with Aston Villa on Friday. 

"Since I've been here he’s played a lot and been important and he will continue to be important.

"I think he was able to transmit that energy [against Palace] and that was contagious for the rest of the team and for the stadium.

"He created a different atmosphere straight away with his energy, with his quality as well and the determination that he showed to change the result. [He had] that belief in himself that he could do it.

"I had no doubts about [his motivation] and if I did I would probably have decided to do something different in the summer if the motivation was just his financial future. It's not the case with Laca and he's a really important player for us.

"Anything is possible [regarding a contract extension]."

The Arsenal boss bemoaned the fact his side dropped off after going ahead instead of attempting to extend their advantage and believes that is a mentality the Gunners need to change.

"After scoring the goal and after hitting the level of performance that we were hitting in the first part of the game, we just need to make sure that we go for the second [goal] and we continue to play with the same fluidity, with the same intention and we don't start to defend something that we have because the game is really long," Arteta added.

Bukayo Saka was forced off at half-time after being kicked in the calf by Palace midfielder James McArthur and Arteta says he has not trained ahead of the upcoming Premier League fixture.

The Gunners boss believes the offending player should have been sent off instead of being shown a yellow card and does not understand why the VAR did not step in.

"We had communication with the referees and the associations to try to explain why they didn't intervene [when McArthur kicked Saka] when the explanation at the start of the season is that they would when there's an obvious error," Arteta continued. 

"They had to take action and they didn't and there are actions that determine a football match and the result. For me, it's not acceptable."

Arsenal face Villa at the Emirates Stadium on October 22 as they look to close the three-point gap between themselves and the top six.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was left baffled by referee Mike Dean's decision not to dismiss James McArthur in his side's 2-2 Premier League draw with Crystal Palace, despite the aid of VAR.

Alexandre Lacazette struck a dramatic stoppage-time goal to rescue a point for Arsenal after Palace had recovered from 1-0 down to lead 2-1 in the dying stages of Patrick Vieira's return to his former club on Monday.

However, Arteta believes visitors Palace should have been reduced to 10 men just before half-time when McArthur caught Bukayo Saka with a late foot as they competed for an aerial ball.

Despite the hosts being incensed by McArthur's challenge, the Palace midfielder received a yellow card from Dean, while England international Saka was forced to withdraw from the action at the interval due to injury,

Gunners boss Arteta was adamant that the incident warranted further punishment, especially with the assistance of video technology.

"It's a clear red card. [McArthur had] no intention to play the ball," he told BBC Sport. "I don't know how with VAR, he hasn't been sent off."

While generally disappointed with Arsenal's performance, Arteta praised the resilience they demonstrated to ensure a share of the spoils.

Arsenal made two errors leading to goals in a Premier League game for the first time since April 2019 against Wolves and for the first time at the Emirates since December 2017 versus Manchester United.

"After the [opening] goal, we didn't manage the game well enough," he added. "We didn't have composure or control. It [the dip in performance] was for a long period, which is worrying.

"We started better in the second half. We had more control, and then we gave the ball away two times for the two goals.

"The most positive thing is we kept going. They kept believing until the end; that's how we managed to get a point."

Lacazette, who grabbed that late equaliser, also praised the hosts' character, while paying tribute to the home crowd for providing much-needed energy.

"At the end, we could draw. The main thing was to avoid the loss," said the French forward, whose last four Premier League goals at the Emirates have all come in London derbies.

"We wanted to win; we started well but then stopped playing. I think this is something we have to work on in the future. He [Arteta] told us when we play well, the fans are with us. This is what I tried to bring. 

"When the fans are with us, it gives us players energy. We need to give them what they want. We showed we have character. Even when we are down, we don't give up."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had opened the scoring for Arsenal – the Gunners star netting in three consecutive home Premier League games for the first time since September 2019.

Since making his Arsenal debut in February 2018, Aubameyang has scored 91 goals in 156 club appearances. The only Premier League players to score more in all competitions during this period are Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (109) and Tottenham forward Harry Kane (99).

Alexandre Lacazette struck a stoppage-time equaliser as Arsenal rescued a point in their 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace.

The Gunners made the ideal start at Emirates Stadium, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finding the net for a third successive home match to give them an early lead.

However, Palace hit after the break as Christian Benteke and Odsonne Edouard completed the turnaround on Patrick Vieira's return to his former club.

But with virtually the last kick of the game, substitute Lacazette fired home a dramatic leveller to stretch the hosts' unbeaten run to six matches in all competitions.

Arsenal were aiming for a fourth straight home victory and they took the lead after just eight minutes on Monday.

After an initial corner was overhit, Vicente Guaita did well to push away Nicolas Pepe's curling shot, but Aubameyang was in the right place to volley the rebound into an empty net from close range.

Seeking a first away win in seven attempts under Vieira, who won three Premier League titles as a Gunner, Palace looked to respond before the break.

Benteke drilled a low effort straight at Aaron Ramsdale, who also demonstrated brilliant reflexes to tip Conor Gallagher's stoppage-time volley wide.

But there was no denying Benteke five minutes after the break. Thomas Partey was caught in possession by Jordan Ayew, and former the Liverpool striker skipped away from a challenge before firing home his first goal of the season.

Arsenal were ruthlessly punished again moments after Guaita brilliantly denied Lacazette, the ball stolen from Albert Sambi Lokonga as Gallagher led a devastating counter before Michael Olise set up Edouard, who beat Ramsdale off the underside of the crossbar.

However, Palace were denied in the fifth minute of stoppage time, when Lacazette pounced for a dramatic equaliser after Guaita parried Ben White’s initial strike directly into his path.

Arsenal spent almost £150million on new recruits during the last transfer window.

But the club are reportedly set to let Alexandre Lacazette go, leaving them short in experienced attacking options.

Manager Mikel Arteta is known as a meticulous planner and wants to be ready for Lacazette's departure.


TOP STORY – GUNNERS SET SIGHTS ON DCL AND WATKINS

Arsenal have Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins in their sights as they plan for Lacazette's exit, so say The Sun.

Lacazette is in the final year of his contract and the Gunners are unlikely to offer him a new deal, meaning he will depart either in January or at the end of the season as a free agent.

Arteta wants back-up to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and has the England forwards on the club's shortlist.

 

ROUND-UP

– Cash-strapped Barcelona have €16m to spend in the January transfer window according to Mundo Deportivo, with the publication also claiming Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling is among their top targets, potentially on loan given their financial challenges.

Robert Lewandowski appears to have had a change of heart and will renew his deal with Bayern Munich, reports Fichajes. The star striker had been linked with a move away from the Bundesliga champions.

– MilanNews.it reports that Milan are in negotiations with head coach Stefano Pioli about extending his contract following a bright start to the season.

– Man City are keeping an eye on Barcelona's 19-year-old midfielder Nico Gonzalez, according to Fichajes.

Arsenal are set for a shake-up after missing out on European football for the first time in 26 years.

Mikel Arteta's side started the new Premier League campaign slowly.

But three wins in a row have offered hope and rumours are swirling about transfer activity.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL PLOT SWAP FOR EN-NESYRI

Arsenal will offer Alexandre Lacazette as part of a deal to land Youssef En-Nesyri from Sevilla, according to La Razon.

Morocco international forward En-Nesyri has sparked Arsenal's interest after netting 24 goals in all competitions in the 2020-21 season.

Lacazette has only made one league appearance for the Gunners this term and was reportedly shipped around during the off-season.

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano reports Lorenzo Pellegrini is set to sign a new long-term contract with Roma, which will remove his €30million release clause. Pellegrini was previously pursued by Liverpool and Tottenham.

– Liverpool scouts kept a close eye on Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma at Wednesday's Champions League game against Manchester United as they plan for Sadio Mane's successor, claims the Daily Mirror.

– Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio remains in Arsenal's sights, reports the Daily Star.

Inter are not considering signing Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, with Ajax's Andre Onana their preferred acquisition, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says "everything can happen" with regards to Alexandre Lacazette's future ahead of the north London derby against Tottenham on Sunday.

Lacazette's contract expires at the end of this season and the striker has been linked with the likes of Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla.

Gunners manager Arteta is unsure whether Lacazette, who has scored two goals in three matches this season, will stay at the club.

The Spaniard said: "We discuss that internally and we discuss that with him. It's a long season ahead of us, everything can happen, everything is open."

Granit Xhaka is available to return against Arsenal's fierce rivals at the Emirates Stadium this weekend after serving a three-match ban.

Arteta has a fully fit squad to choose from and says Xhaka has looked sharp in training, despite the midfielder having also tested positive for coronavirus while on international duty with Switzerland this month.

"He came back and he was flying [in training], because he really looks after himself," Arteta said. "He gives you the maximum and the best possible attitude to compete and win matches."

While Arsenal have won three consecutive games in all competitions without conceding a goal, Spurs have lost their previous two Premier League matches 3-0.

Arteta does not believe it is necessarily a good time to play Tottenham, who have won just one of their past 28 away league games against Arsenal.

He said: "When the ball is rolling I think we all forget where we are, we're just trying to compete to win that football match, we won't be any different from them."

Arteta added: "We are playing at home, we're going to have our people right behind us, they're going to create an incredible atmosphere that you have to be able to enjoy, empower and make the most of it."

The former Arsenal midfielder says his players are well aware of the magnitude of the game.

"I will make sure that they understand what it means, the history between the two clubs and what it means emotionally to all of our supporters," Arteta said. "You have to play the game with a slightly different skin, because there is a little bit more at stake."

December 2, 2018. In the 56th minute of Unai Emery's first north London derby in charge of Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang curled a sensational first-time finish beyond Hugo Lloris to level the scores at 2-2.

Aubameyang's strike – his second goal of the game after a first-half penalty to open the scoring – sent the home faithful into raptures at Emirates Stadium, and the Gabon forward went on to tee up Lucas Torreira to score Arsenal's final goal in a 4-2 victory.

Having arrived from Borussia Dortmund in January of that year, Aubameyang scored 22 Premier League goals in 2018-19, sharing the league's Golden Boot award with Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

It was a tally he matched the following season, trailing the competition's top scorer Jamie Vardy by one, but after prolonged contract negotiations finally resulted in Aubameyang signing a new three-year contract last September, his form has hit a wall.

His league total dropped to just 10 goals last season, as Aubameyang netted just three times prior to the turn of the year.

Despite featuring in each of Arsenal's league games so far this season, Aubameyang only has one goal, which came in the 1-0 win over Norwich City earlier this month. He had six attempts in that match, getting just two on target.

At 32, it seems Aubameyang's prime is now behind him, though could Sunday's north London derby with Tottenham be the catalyst to spark his form and really get Arsenal's season up and running?

Using Opta data, Stats Perform assesses if there is a way back to the top for Aubameyang, or is the end of the road approaching?

 

Shoot on sight not always the right call

Aubameyang's second goal in that derby in December 2018 was a moment of magic, as he caught Lloris out with a sensational first-time strike from outside the box.

However, the shoot-on-sight policy is not seeming to be an effective fix for Aubameyang's fading form.

Aubameyang has at least scored this season and has mustered nine attempts in the league, but those efforts have had an average worth of 0.14 xG (expected goals) – the lowest mark of his Arsenal career.

Given the one successful strike – against Norwich – was a goal-line finish worth 0.96 xG on its own, the second-best chance of the entire Premier League season by that metric, it is easy to paint a picture of otherwise ambitious shooting habits from Aubameyang. His remaining eight shots have had a combined xG of 0.39 – or 0.05 per shot – signifying they came from chances where a player is highly unlikely to score.

At odds with struggling Spurs talisman Harry Kane, who has had just four attempts so far this season and has recorded just 7.5 per cent of his touches in the opposition box, Aubameyang is taking a career-high 17.1 per cent of his touches in the opposing area, yet the Tottenham number 10 has matched his three shots on target so far.

The Laca factor

Arsenal have been blessed in recent seasons, with two – on their day – top-quality goalscorers to call on in the form of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Though at times, that may well have resulted in both players having to compromise.

The latter has made only one league appearance so far this term, replacing Aubameyang in the second half of Arsenal's 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City last month, and there has at times been an issue with fitting both strikers into the team.

Aubameyang has often been deployed wide to accommodate Lacazette, who in turn has at times played deeper or had to settle for a place on the bench in order to fit his fellow striker into a central berth.

Since Aubameyang arrived at the club, he and Lacazette have played in 92 of the same games, with the Gunners recording 40 wins, 20 draws and 32 defeats.

That win rate of 43.5 per cent is significantly less than the 55 per cent success record from matches where one of the strikers did not play (22 wins from 40 such games).

It would suggest the way forward for Arsenal now is to stick with one or the other. Lacazette outscored Aubameyang in the league last season, though as the Gunners skipper the latter is seemingly ahead in the pecking order.

Arteta not helping?

Both Emery and successor Mikel Arteta wanted to develop a style that focused on playing out from the back, though given pace is Aubameyang's main asset, it would seem a direct approach may well be the optimal way to get the best out of the attacker.

Arguably Arteta's best games as Arsenal boss came in the 2019-20 FA Cup semi-final and final, with Aubameyang scoring a double in both matches to help the Gunners claim the trophy.

Aubameyang's pace was crucial, with his second goal in the 2-0 semi-final win over City coming at the culmination of a run from the left, the forward latching onto Kieran Tierney's ball before finishing under Ederson.

A similar trend followed in the final – Aubameyang winning a penalty by isolating Cesar Azpilicueta in that left channel, and he converted from 12 yards to restore parity before finishing deftly for a second-half winner.

It seemed Arteta was utilising this tactic more in his first half-season in charge. In a campaign shared between Emery and Arteta, Aubameyang had seven shots from fast breaks in the Premier League, though he only scored one. He had five such attempts the previous season, though only managed three across 2020-21.

Aubameyang also saw his touches in the opposition box drop off significantly last term, from 152 in 2019-20 to 125, while he had 149 in Emery's only full season in charge.

The amount of shots Aubameyang is taking has also dropped from season to season, from 94 under Emery, to 93 the following campaign, to just 57 last term.

While he outperformed his expected goals value (14.75) by some way in 2019-20, suggesting he finished some difficult chances, an xG of 10.22 last season seemingly reflects where Aubameyang is at.

However, a 7.81 xG on target (xGOT) score, which rates the level of his shooting rather than the quality of the chances, hints the former Saint-Etienne man's finishes were not the best, and may suggest some poor goalkeeping contributed to his league total. Compare this to 2019-20, when Aubameyang's xGOT outperformed his xG value, and it points to a striker on the wane, who is perhaps not being helped by slower build-up play.

Sunday's match could be crucial for Arteta, whose team have finally picked up victories after heading into the international break at the bottom of the table. For Aubameyang, it is a chance to prove he still belongs among the league's elite strikers.

Barcelona need to add some attacking options to their squad, particularly with the Lionel Messi era now over.

Ferran Torres is among those on their wish list. 

Will Manchester City let him go? 

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA STILL COVET TORRES

Barcelona are not ready to give up on their pursuit of Manchester City forward Ferran Torres, the Sun reports.  

After being rebuffed in a previous overture for the 21-year-old Spain international, Barca are ready to try again next year.  

Torres has done them no favours with his impressive showing for Spain at Euro 2020, plus his in-form start to this season for City. 

 

ROUND-UP

Xavi could be in line to replace Ronald Koeman at Barcelona, Marca reports. The Barca legend is head coach at Al Sadd after finishing his playing career with the Qatari club.  

Liverpool plan to renew their pursuit of West Ham's Jarrod Bowen, the Liverpool Echo reports, after they reportedly bid £20million for him during the previous transfer window.  

Alexandre Lacazette will have no shortage of suitors when the time comes for him to depart Arsenal. Atletico Madrid are interested in the France striker, says Le10 Sport, while West Ham and Crystal Palace may also bid for the 30-year-old, according to 90min. 

Alexandre Lacazette's future at Arsenal is uncertain and a move to Italy may beckon.

The French forward was said to have been a player Arsenal would have considered allowing to leave at the right price during the recent transfer window.

Lacazette has only managed two substitute appearances for the Gunners in the league this season.

TOP STORY - JUVENTUS PLOT MOVE FOR GUNNER

Juventus are considering a move to sign Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, claims Calciomercato.

Lacazette is due to become a free agent at the end of next June and it remains to be seen whether he renews, yet the Turin club may move for him in January.

Juventus' slow start to the new season may play a part in their decision-making on when to pursue his signature.

ROUND-UP

- Bruno Fernandes will be rewarded with a bumper new Manchester United contract worth £250,000 per week, claims The Sun. The deal could be announced in the next few days, representing a £100,000 pay raise on his current deal that runs until 2025.

- Chelsea will reportedly consider selling Antonio Rudiger, who has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. Any Rudiger sale would raise funds to land Sevilla star Jules Kounde, according to Football365.

- Ansu Fati is committed to remaining with Barcelona despite the club's financial issues, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham is attracting plenty of interest.

The 18-year-old England international's price is valued at around £80 million (€94m).

Bellingham made 46 appearances for Dortmund last season and already has eight England caps.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PLACE BELLINGHAM ON WISH LIST

Manchester City have turned their attention to Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, claims the Daily Star.

City have placed the 18-year-old England international on their wish list, as they look for a long-term replacement for veteran Fernandinho.

Pep Guardiola's side will join the queue alongside Liverpool, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

ROUND-UP

- Dortmund's Erling Haaland will not rush into a decision on his club future when a release clause of approximately £70m (€81m) takes effect in 2022 amid interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City,  claims 90min.

- Man City will rival Manchester United and look to complete a deal for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice in 2022, reports The Sun. Rice is valued at £100m by the Hammers.

- The Daily Mail claims Alexandre Lacazette's future at Arsenal is in some doubt after the club reportedly tried to replace him during the recent transfer window.

- Free agent Dani Alves has been heavily linked with a move to Argentine giants Boca Juniors,  according to Marca.

- Barcelona have already tabled a contract extension offer to 18-year-old talent Ansu Fati,  reports Mundo Deportivo.

Paul Pogba will be in demand when his contract expires after this season.

While several big clubs are in the mix, one has reportedly taken the lead.

The Santiago Bernabeu could be Pogba's next home.

 

TOP STORY - REAL MADRID WANT POGBA

Real Madrid are confident they can land Paul Pogba on a free transfer after this season, Mundo Deportivo reports. 

The interest apparently is mutual, as the report says Pogba would favour a move to Los Blancos over interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus

The deal might not be so easy to close if Manchester United decide to sell Pogba during the January window, but he remains a top target for Madrid either way.

 

ROUND-UP

- After failing to find a landing spot in Europe following his departure from Arsenal, veteran centre-back David Luiz will join Flamengo through the end of 2022, according to reports by Fabrizio Romano and Goal Brazil. 

- Alexandre Lacazette appears on the way out at Arsenal after the Gunners made a significant effort to sign Tammy Abraham during the transfer window, Romano reports. 

- Chelsea and Bayern Munich could pursue a swap deal that sends Timo Werner back to Germany and brings Leroy Sane back to the Premier League, according to Todo Fichajes.

- Everton will make another attempt to prise Ainsley Maitland-Niles from Arsenal during the January window, ESPN reports.

- Ajax defender Jurrien Timber is drawing interest from Chelsea and Tottenham, according to 90min. 

Mikel Arteta's selection options for Arsenal's EFL Cup tie with West Brom have been boosted by the availability of Martin Odegaard, while Alexandre Lacazette has resumed full training.

Lacazette has yet to feature for the Gunners this season after he tested positive for COVID-19 before their Premier League opener against Brentford.

The French striker has now returned to working with the rest of the first-team squad ahead of Wednesday's second-round tie against Championship opponents.

Lacazette scored 17 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions last season to finish as Arsenal's top goalscorer.

Odegaard joined Arsenal from Real Madrid on a permanent basis last Friday following a successful loan spell in the 2020-21 campaign. He scored one goal and provided two assists, while his 20 chances created was the most of any Arsenal player during his temporary spell in north London.

The Norwegian did not receive international clearance in time to feature in Sunday's 2-0 home defeat to London rivals Chelsea.

Arteta will hope for a change of fortunes in the cup competition after back-to-back defeats in their opening two Premier League games.

Meanwhile, reserve goalkeeper Alex Runarsson is available again after overcoming COVID-19 but Arteta may hand a full debut to Aaron Ramsdale, signed from Sheffield United last week.

Defenders Hector Bellerin, Gabriel, Kieran Tierney and forward Gabriel Martinelli have all returned to training ahead of the tie after minor injury concerns.

Arsenal are without striker Eddie Nketiah, who has an ankle injury, amid reported interest from Crystal Palace.

The Gunners are also assessing the fitness of Brazilian forward Willian - recently linked with a move to Corinthians in his homeland - following his recovery from coronavirus.

Centre-back Ben White is absent after testing positive for COVDI-19 before the clash with Chelsea while midfielder Thomas Partey is still unavailable with an ankle injury.

Mikel Arteta was "surprised" the Premier League gave Arsenal's opening game against Brentford the go-ahead after several of his squad tested positive for coronavirus prior to the fixture.

The Gunners, who lost the game 2-0 last Friday, were without strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexndre Lacazette in addition to playmaker Willian and back-up goalkeeper Alex Runarsson, all of whom were self-isolating.

Lacazette and Runarsson will again be missing for Arsenal's clash against Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, although Aubameyang has returned to training while Willian is being assessed.

The Premier League does not have specific thresholds for a number of coronavirus cases to force a fixture postponement, but Aston Villa rearranged matches last season after their squad was hit by a significant number of cases. 

"I was surprised but the regulations or the regulators decided the best thing to do was play the game," Arsenal head coach Arteta said.

“What we did is what we had to do, through the club, through the club doctor as well. He explained the situation, how it developed and the risk that we considered.

"We had an incredible 48 hours before the match which created a big uncertainty. It was probably an unprecedented Arsenal line-up."

Arteta said most his players have now been jabbed against COVID-19 but indicated it was not mandatory for the players.

"Most of them are double vaccinated. Others they have one vaccine," he added.

"We are trying to encourage them to get vaccinated because they are going to protect themselves, their families, obviously the environment around the club."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexander Lacazette, Willian and Alex Runarsson have all been absent due to coronavirus, Arsenal have confirmed.

Head coach Mikel Arteta explained Aubameyang and Lacazette were feeling unwell prior to the Gunners' lacklustre 2-0 defeat at new boys Brentford to begin their Premier League campaign last Friday.

It has now been confirmed the strike duo are part of a quartet who missed that game following a positive test for COVID-19, with each player at various stages of their recovery.

Aubameyang, who scored 10 goals in 29 Premier League outings last term, has now returned a negative result and could be in contention to feature against Chelsea on Sunday.

Willian's situation will be monitored ahead of the clash against his former club, but Lacazette and Runarsson have both been ruled out of the derby clash.

Arsenal also provided injury updates on Gabriel, Eddie Nketiah and Thomas Partey after being beaten by a newly promoted side in their opening league match of the season for the first time since 1976-77 against Bristol City.

Partey is expected to return to training at the end of August after sustaining an ankle injury in the pre-season friendly against Chelsea.

Nketiah, who suffered an ankle injury in the same game as his team-mate, will be back in training a couple of weeks later in September, while Gabriel is aiming to be back later this month.

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