Unai Emery has confirmed that both Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka are doubtful for Thursday’s Europa League Quarterfinal against Napoli at the Emirates. Koscielny picked up a foot injury in Arsenal’s international break friendly against Al-Nasr Dubai. Xhaka picked up a groin problem on international duty with Switzerland.
The pair will be sorely missed. Koscielny’s return to form has been a key part of Arsenal’s defensive resurgence in the last month or two. He’s an important piece on the strength of his own play and because he keeps Shkodran Mustafi either at right back or on the bench and NOT in the middle of the defense.
And as for Xhaka, we’ve seen time and again (including on Sunday against Everton) how much the Gunners’ struggle without him anchoring the midfield. He is the only player Arsenal have who effectively links up the play and spreads the ball around. His absence is particularly felt by Mesut Ozil. Against Everton, the German had to drop way too deep to receive the ball. Ozil is at his best and most dangerous when he is on the ball in more advanced positions — Xhaka enables that.
Fortunately for the Gunners, Lucas Torreira is available against Napoli to deputize for Xhaka. His suspension was in the Premier League and has been served. Hopefully the Uruguayan’s availability gives Unai Emery the confidence to return to the Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang combination that is unbeaten when starting together this season.