Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Xhaka worry, Tierney issue: Four things spotted in Arsenal training ahead of Leicester clash

After a dramatic win over Aston Villa, Arsenal have now set their sights on the clash with Leicester City. The Foxes are set to welcome the Gunners to the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon as the visitors look to defend their place at the top of the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta’s side have a game in hand and a two-point advantage over second-placed Manchester City. With the two sides set to lock horns in April, Arsenal will be desperate to build a head of steam.

And, what better time to build upon their new-found momentum than against a side who have been subject to a three-goal thrashing. So, with that being said, have taken a look at what stood out to us in Arsenal training as Arteta continues preparations for the clash with Leicester City.

Xhaka fitness concern?

Granit Xhaka was spotted walking onto the pitches at London Colney chatting with fitness coach Barry Solan, whose official title at Arsenal is Strength and Conditioning coach. The Switzerland international has started in every of the Gunners’ Premier League games this season.

He’s also featured in all but one of Arsenal’s fixtures this term, missing the final Europa League group stage clash due to suspension. While it is entirely possible that they duo were simply exchanging words, Xhaka and Solan’s chat drops a hint into a potential plan which the club have to manage the midfielder’s fitness.

Hale End star earns his stripes

Amario Cozier-Duberry was pictured walking to training with Reiss Nelson. The 17-year-old winger has impressed for Arsenal in the Premier League 2 this season and will be looking to follow on in the footsteps of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.

The youngster was then later seen behind William Saliba during a drill before joining in with other first-team activities.

Smith Rowe impresses

Emile Smith Rowe looked ready and raring to go ahead of his return from injury. The 22-year-old has featured on the bench recently for the Gunners but he’s yet to even start this term.

He was pictured scoring a well-placed driven strike on his weaker left-foot. With Xhaka previously seen speaking to Solan, maybe Arsenal have a plan to use Smith Rowe to ease the workload on the Swiss.

Glimpse at a potential compatibility issue

There has been plenty of debate on social media recently as to whether Gabriel Martinelli and Kieran Tierney are compatible on the left-wing. While only a small sample size, a clip has proven why Arteta prefers Oleksandr Zinchenko.

In a small-sided game, Tierney drove forward with the ball down the touchline. But, by doing so, the Scotsman appeared to block Martinelli’s ‘space’ in which he usually operates – high and wide.

As a result, the Brazilian held his position and thus dropped deep. Tierney halted his run, turned and passed back to Martinelli before he drove in-field.

Zinchenko tucks inside, allowing the forward more space on the wing. Tierney and Martinelli like to operate in similar spaces.

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