Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will both miss Arsenal’s season opener against Brentford, according to Charles Watts and David Ornstein. The Gunners’ attacking duo are both ill and have missed training the last few days. Both were likely slated to start before getting sick, at least based on the lineup that started against Tottenham in the last preseason match. Regardless of their form and how you rate them, they will be missed. Arsenal are better with them in the lineup or at least available than without.
Mikel Arteta is also missing Eddie Nketiah, who won’t be back in training until September because of an ankle injury. That leaves Folarin Balogun and Gabriel Martinelli as the only true strikers available (and Martinelli may or may not be an out and out striker). Martinelli just returned from the Brazilian Olympic team and has missed all but the final week of Arsenal preseason. The silver (gold) lining to that is Martinelli is definitely match fit, despite seeing limited action in Tokyo. And that limited action might mean he’s fresh and ready to go. He posted as much to Instagram yesterday.
Martinelli is the likelier choice in my eyes, mostly because Folarin Balogun has 72 minutes of senior competitive football to his name. I’m not sure he’s ready to start a Premier League season opener. But he may have to depending on Martinelli’s readiness.
Aubameyang and Lacazette being out also means we may see an earlier-than-planned return to the starting lineup for Bukayo Saka. The England man played nearly 30 minutes in the final preseason match as a substitute, so he’s definitely available, but I’d wager that Mikel Arteta was planning to ease him back a bit more, especially with the opener coming against a newly-promoted team. Arsenal should have had enough quality to beat Brentford with Saka perhaps coming off the bench late if the Gunners needed a goal, but with both main scoring threats out, I think Bukayo starts.