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Manchester City logo
Premier League | Gameweek 30
Mar 31, 2024 at 4.30pm UK
Etihad Stadium
Arsenal logo

Man City
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Jesus (67'), Raya (79')

Key Arsenal trio not seen in training ahead of Manchester City showdown

Key Arsenal trio not seen in training ahead of Man City showdown
© Reuters
Arsenal trio Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Magalhaes are all absent from the Gunners' training pictures ahead of Sunday's showdown with Manchester City.

Three key Arsenal men were absent from the Gunners' latest batch of training pictures ahead of Sunday's mouthwatering Premier League showdown with Manchester City at the Etihad.

Thanks to a record-breaking eight-game winning run in the top flight since the turn of the year, Mikel Arteta's men entered the international break looking down on the other 19 teams in the division.

Level on 64 points with Liverpool in the table after 28 matches, the Gunners are currently edging out the Reds by virtue of a superior goal difference, while they have accrued one more point than Manchester City.

As such, victory on the treble winners' turf on March 31 would see Arteta's team build up a four-point lead over Pep Guardiola's men, but the former's squad is not exactly in tip-top shape heading into the weekend.

All of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Magalhaes were unavailable for their countries this month on account of fitness concerns, and not one was seen in the latest round of training images the club released from Tuesday's session.

Saka reported for England duty at St George's Park ostensibly fully fit, but he withdrew before the 1-0 friendly loss to Brazil with an unspecified issue, which he has supposedly been carrying for some time.

There was believed to have been a precautionary element to Saka's withdrawal, but the 22-year-old is still not guaranteed to be fit for the clash with the champions, whom he also missed out on facing during October's 1-0 Emirates triumph.

That contest is the only Premier League match that Saka has missed for the Gunners this season, while centre-back Gabriel has been available for the entire campaign, coming up with four goals from 26 appearances in the top flight.

The former Lille man pulled out of the Brazil squad with Achilles pain, though, while compatriot Martinelli was also unavailable to head coach Dorival Junior with the foot injury he picked up against Sheffield United at the start of the month.

Martinelli was helped off by physios in that 6-0 Bramall Lane victory, where he could not put any weight on his right foot on account of a nasty cut, which ruled him out of the Gunners' subsequent wins over Brentford and Porto.

Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli is helped off the pitch after sustaining an injury on March 4, 2024© Reuters

Who could replace Arsenal's key trio at the Etihad?

Saka, Gabriel and Martinelli's absences are hardly set in stone just because of a few training pictures - there is every chance that the trio did take part but were deliberately not photographed - but their omissions will naturally lead to increased concern among Gooners.

There is a case for all three men to be regarded as irreplaceable in Arteta's system, especially 16-goal top scorer Saka, whose spot on the right was filled by Gabriel Jesus when Man City made the trip to North London in October.

Reiss Nelson is a more like-for-like option, but the Englishman is yet to start a Premier League game this season - despite penning a new four-year deal last summer - while Fabio Vieira is an alternative solution.

During Martinelli's layoff, Leandro Trossard has unsurprisingly been given the nod on the left in recent matches and justified his selection in that role against Porto, picking out the bottom corner with aplomb to draw the Gunners level in their last-16 tie.

Trossard would expect to fend off the threat of Emile Smith Rowe to deputise for Martinelli again, while Jakub Kiwior is ostensibly the top pick to step in for fellow left-footed centre-back Gabriel, although his last six Premier League starts have come from a left-back role.

The return of Oleksandr Zinchenko or the versatile Takehiro Tomiyasu out wide would allow Kiwior to move into a central position, but Jurrien Timber is still on the long road to recovery from his ACL injury and will not be ready to make his comeback on Sunday.

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Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring for Arsenal with Gabriel Magalhaes on March 19, 2023
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