Arsenal could be without four players for Atletico Madrid clash

Arsenal have been dealt a major blow as manager Arsene Wenger has admitted they could be without four players for Thursday’s Europa League semi-final meeting with Atletico Madrid.

The Gunners welcome Atleti to the Emirates Stadium for the first leg this week but could be short in midfield as things stand.

Mohamed Elneny picked up an ankle injury in Sunday’s 4-1 win over West Ham United and was in tears while being substituted off in the second-half.

It initially appeared he had broken his ankle and would be out for the remainder of the season but the Egyptian international may have only sprained it so there’s a chance he could return before the campaign comes to a close.

Referee Andre Marriner (L) has words with Arsenal’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Southampton at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 8, 2018. Picture: GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

The 25-year-old, who recently signed a new deal with Arsenal as reward for his upturn in form, will miss Thursday’s game. Wenger said at the time: “It’s an ankle problem that is very painful. Overall, I believe that we have to wait until the X-ray to know a little more about it. But Thursday will be too soon for him.”

Elneny’s absence would put Jack Wilshere in the frame to start against Atletico Madrid, but the English international has been suffering with an injury of his own.

The 26-year-old has missed Arsenal’s last two league games against Newcastle United and West Ham through injury, although Wenger said there’s a ‘good chance’ he’s in contention to play on Thursday.

“Jack had a training session today and he looked positive, so he has a good chance to be available for Thursday.”

Wilshere was racking up a lot of playing time earlier in the season, but things have petered out in 2018. The playmaker has made just three Premier League starts for Arsenal in the last three months and hasn’t scored or made an assist since Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea on January 3.

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere

The Gunners might need him to play even if his form or fitness doesn’t warrant it. Arsenal will have Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey, but they might need another body in the middle of the park to ensure they can go toe-to-toe with Atleti.

Without Wilshere, the Londoners would be reliant on the likes of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to create chances, but Wenger revealed the pair could also miss the first leg on Thursday.

Ozil missed Sunday’s win over West Ham as he has the flu. The Arsenal manager was coy when asked if he could return in time to face Diego Simeone’s side, saying: “Ozil was sickness (flu) so I cannot tell you much more about that. We will have to see how he recovers (on Monday).”

The German international has missed Arsenal’s last three Premier League games. His last domestic appearance was in their 3-0 win over Stoke City on April Fool’s.

As for Mkhitaryan, Wenger added: “Mkhitaryan won’t be available on Thursday.” The Armenian midfielder has been sidelined for three weeks with a knee injury but was expected to return before the season ended. He’ll be hoping to make it back in time for the second leg on May 3.

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Crippy can be found on Twitter (@CrippyCooke). He is a sports journalist who has written for the Independent, Bleacher Report, Huffington Post, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph among others. Crippy treats football gossip with a dash of cynicism and loves tearing apart outlandish rumours.

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