Mesut Ozil looks set to miss Arsenal’s key clash at Chelsea.
The German playmaker sat out the Europa League victory against Cologne, with Arsene Wenger saying ahead of that match that Ozil would be ‘rested’ along with Aaron Ramsey.
However, Arsenal’s chief creative force missed training on Saturday and is now set to sit out the huge clash at Stamford Bridge with what has been described as a ‘muscle’ injury.
Arsenal are likely to recall a host of first-team regulars for the short trip to face the Premier League champions.
Alexis Sanchez will feature after playing the whole game on Thursday night, where Theo Walcott (calf) hobbled off. Francis Coquelin (hamstring) and Santi Cazorla (ankle) are definitely out.
Ahead of the London derby, Wenger has rubbished claims that Arsenal have a mental block on the road.
The Gunners have lost both away games this season, including the 4-0 humiliation at Liverpool.
That thrashing continued a horror run of only two away wins in 22 attempts against top six rivals since 2013/14 which has cost them any title hopes – and seen their bottle repeatedly questioned.
Since December 2013, their record on the road is worse than West Ham or Swansea.
Wenger admitted the visit to Stamford Bridge had added significance after the defeat at Anfield.
“That should be an even greater motivation for us to turn up with an even better performance,” said the Frenchman. “It is very important, of course. Nobody would deny that. If you calculate the positions in the top four then it will be decided by your results against your direct opponents.”
But the manager who led the Invincibles to an unbeaten season then defended his current side which went unbeaten away in the Premier League for over nine months before the December defeat at Goodison Park.
“If you look at my record, you will see I played two years without losing a game away from home in the Premier League,” he said. “Last year, until we lost at Everton, we had not lost away from home for a whole year. After that, we lost at Man City, that’s true that it gave us a problem of confidence away from home.
“But I don’t believe in that. The pitch is 105metres long and 68m wide everywhere, and never in my life I could accept or understand that it’s different away from home.
“It’s just a question of how much you want it, it’s about football, it’s a good opportunity to show that and that we have that quality.”
Even by Arsenal’s standards, Stamford Bridge has not been a happy hunting ground with defeats in their last five visits.
“Basically, in last few years, Chelsea has had great teams so it was always difficult to win there,” added Wenger. “But our record against Chelsea has been good, we won here last year, we won the FA Cup final (inset), on penalties in the Community Shield, so let’s focus on the quality of our game and not too much on where we play.”
Per Mertesacker, the man of the match in the FA Cup final win, called for a repeat performance from their two Wembley wins.
The German said: “They have habits in their game, though, and we need to read that well. That’s what we did, especially at Wembley twice in three months.
“Those who watched the games closely could see they have habits, especially playing out from the back. We allow them a little bit, but not too much, and stand on the right side of our position. The key is to stick to what we have done. We have high expectations of ourselves.”
Asked if Europa League goalscorer Alexis Sanchez is happy and motivated to have a good season, he added: “Yeah we have to. Obviously, he is going to be vital. I think he is happy to join in and just sacrifice. That’s what he always does.”