Granit Xhaka red card sees Arsenal midfield crisis deepen ahead of Tottenham clash

By Malik Ouzia

Arsenal’s midfield crisis worsened ahead of this weekend’s north London derby against Tottenham after Granit Xhaka was sent off in their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Liverpool at Anfield on Thursday night.

The Gunners are woefully short in the position, with Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey away at AFCON and Ainsley Maitland-Niles having been allowed to join Roma on loan.

With Xhaka out after testing positive for Covid, Mikel Arteta was forced to start teenager Charlie Patino in midfield alongside summer signing Albert Sambi Lokonga in Sunday’s FA Cup third round defeat to Nottingham Forest on Sunday.

The Swiss international’s return for the trip to Merseyside was seen as a major boost, but he was sent off inside half-an-hour after a rash, last-man challenge that prevented Diogo Jota racing through on goal.

Xhaka will be suspended for Sunday’s visit to Spurs and, because it is his second dismissal of the season, next week’s return leg against Liverpool at the Emirates as well.

To make matters worse for Arteta, attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard, who has occasionally been deployed in a deeper role, has tested positive for Covid and been ruled out of the Spurs game.

Another more attack-minded midfielder Emile Smith Rowe remains out injured, though he could yet recover in time for the derby, or else Ben White or Calum Chambers could be pressed into emergency use in the middle of the park.

Arsenal are in the market for midfield reinforcements this month and have been offered the chance to sign Juventus’ Arthur Melo on loan until the end of the campaign.

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