Arsenal cancel friendly as Mikel Arteta prepares for worst-case Ben White scenario vs Newcastle
Arsenal’s youth match against Farnborough FC has been cancelled. The Arsenal under 23 squad were due to play the friendly having already completed the Premier League 2 season weeks ahead of the end of the senior campaign.
The number of youth players present on the Arsenal senior bench this season has been sizeable. Therefore, it made sense that the under 23s would continue to train and play matches in order to keep up maximum fitness.
A statement on the Farnborough FC website read: “Unfortunately, tonight's U23 Friendly with Arsenal Academy has been cancelled. Tonight's visitors have had to pull out at short notice.”
It seems a likely reason for the postponement is due to Arsenal’s injury and suspension crisis in defence after the North London Derby defeat. Rob Holding was sent off for two yellow card offences in seven minutes.
“I don’t know,” Arteta said when asked how Gabriel’s injury was. “Gabi is normally not a player who wants to or asks to come off the pitch, he felt something and hopefully it’s not much, because having Rob out and Ben with no training sessions, obviously we are really short in that position.”
When asked post-match about the decision not to bring on White he said: “To take that risk [of bringing on Ben White] in the situation of the game made no sense.
“Our focus is Newcastle. This game is history. He felt something so hopefully Ben will be fit, and Gabriel will recover as we do not have enough players in the backline.
“He felt something, so we will have to wait and assess him, but yeah it’s a real issue because now Rob is out as well, and Ben is just coming (back) from injury.”
Should the worst-case scenario come to pass and both White, Holding and Gabriel are unavailable then Arteta may need to get inventive. The only available senior options will be Cedric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Nuno Tavares. Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny have both played in defence during their time with the club too.
However, considering the news that the youth game has been cancelled, it might be that Arteta will turn to some of the youth options. The most likely appears to be either Omar Rekik or Alex Kirk.
Rekik is a senior international for Tunisia and participated at the African Cup of Nations this winter. Kirk has been called up to the senior squad on one occasion this Premier League season and was an unused substitute.
The frustration of hindsight will be that Pablo Mari left the club on loan and Calum Chambers was allowed to leave on a permanent deal for Aston Villa. It is a nightmare scenario and Arsenal and Arteta are clearly considering all the available options.