Arsenal, Clubs, English Premier League, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Story


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LONDON — Arsene Wenger has confirmed Henrikh Mkhitaryan is in line to make his first start for Arsenal in their Premier League game against Everton on Saturday but club-record signing Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is a doubt because of illness.

Aubameyang, 28, joined from Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday but trained separately away from his teammates on Thursday after having a fever.

“Certainly Mkhitaryan will start,” Wenger told a news conference on Friday. “Aubameyang, I have to assess how he is physically today and how well he feels. He had sickness, a fever.

“He couldn’t train a lot, he started yesterday. He was still not completely well so I have to assess and see with the medical department how well and how fit he can be.”

Jack Wilshere also faces a fitness test after missing Tuesday’s loss at Swansea with an illness, while Danny Welbeck is still out with an injury.

The arrival of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan — who joined in a swap deal for Alexis Sanchez — gives Arsenal a loaded attack that also includes Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette.

However, Wenger was coy when asked if it’s possible to play all four of them together in the same line-up.

“It’s always possible. Will I do it? Maybe. I don’t know. But I think it’s possible, yes,” Wenger said.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang & Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Arsenal fans could have to wait to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan play together.

He also admitted that he hasn’t offered Lacazette any assurances that he will keep his starting place despite Aubameyang’s arrival. Lacazette, who was Arsenal’s record signing when he joined this past summer, has struggled for goals lately after a promising start to the season.

“I don’t reassure people because I think we are in a competitive world. We have all chosen a job that is about competition and you have to fight for your place,” Wenger said.

“It means that we can play two up [top], or one. On the other hand you forget that we lose three strikers: Walcott, Sanchez and Giroud. So you should be in a position where you can understand why I brought at least one in.

“It suggests you need at least two top strikers in the Premier League, because if one is injured then you have a problem.”

Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan already played together at Dortmund, and Wenger is hopeful they can recreate their successful partnership at the Emirates.

“I hope so, yes. They are players who have played together, who know each other well and have had a successful period together,” Wenger said. “We are an offensive team and that’s why I hope they can recreate that perfect understanding they had at Dortmund.”

Aubameyang’s arrival meant Arsenal had to sell Olivier Giroud to Chelsea, who in turn sent Michy Batshuayi to Dortmund in a three-way transfer, and Wenger acknowledged that the complicated nature of the deal made for a stressful last few days of the window.

“It was difficult because of course Dortmund wanted a replacement,” Wenger said. “First we had to agree the transfer deal with them and then after that we had to wait for them to find somebody who could replace him. That was a little bit of a cryptic deal because Giroud went to Chelsea and Batshuayi went to Dortmund. That’s why it was very short in time and very tense until the end.

“It was sad to see all the players who left go. Olivier wanted more playing time. He has not played many Premier League games and he also wants to go to the World Cup. That’s why I opened the door when Aubameyang came in for him, to give him a chance to get the competition he deserves.”

Arsenal were also handed a massive boost when Ozil signed a new contract with the club this week, ending 18 months of speculation about his future. And Wenger called on the German to lead Arsenal forward as they try to get back into the Premier League’s top four.

“He has committed his future to the club in a period where we are in a tricky position on that front, in qualifying for the Champions League. You expect that he becomes the leader and takes the responsibility to lead the team to success,” Wenger said. “It is [like a new signing] because many predicted that he will not commit and not sign for us. Overall it’s good news for us.

“When you look at the transfer market today, the fact that you can keep a player of that calibre is of course good news. The fact that he committed for a longer period shows as well that he will have to do that as well on the pitch and lead the team.”

Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.



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