Arsenal emerged victorious, but certainly not unscathed, from a midweek EFL Cup game against Blackpool ahead of Liverpool’s trip to the Emirates.
Before the Gunners’ match against the League One side on Wednesday night, Unai Emery was already facing a lengthy list of injury worries.
Laurent Koscielny, Dinos Mavropanos, Mohamed Elneny and Hector Bellerin were all ruled out, while Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal needed fitness tests—and neither eventually made the match-day squad.
Arsenal won 2-1, but the match ended far closer than expected as Blackpool pushed for a late comeback, thanks in part to a red card received by Matteo Guendozi.
The central midfielder has been a regular for Emery this term, but he will now miss the Premier League game against the Reds through suspension.
Ahead of the new season, rule changes included suspensions from League Cup matches only being served in future League Cup games—but this was only for yellow card accumulations rather than outright reds.
As such, the cross-competition suspension rule still applies to Guendozi and he’ll miss the next Arsenal game.
Guendozi’s absence in midfield could mean that Granit Xhaka, used recently at left-back, needs to return to the centre of the park.
But that will be dependent on the likes of Monreal or Kolasinac proving their fitness before the weekend.
Carl Jenkinson was used in the role against Blackpool, a first appearance of the season for the 26-year-old.
Bellerin, Monreal and Shkodran Mustafi have made up three-quarters of the regular Arsenal back four this season, with Rob Holding or Sokratis the other member.
It could well leave the Gunners somewhat unstable, particularly in the wide areas, if the two full-backs fail to recover in time—and with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Xherdan Shaqiri showing impressive form of late.
There also remains uncertainty surrounding Arsenal‘s first-choice goalkeeper; Bernd Leno has been playing recently after Petr Cech suffered an injury, but the Czech veteran returned for the win over Blackpool.
The Gunners are unbeaten in 13 now, 12 wins and a draw—against Crystal Palace last weekend—in that time, but Liverpool will be comfortably the toughest opponent they’ve faced in that run.
As an aside to the injury and suspension worries for Arsenal, Unai Emery will have to consider Jurgen Klopp‘s recent tactical switch, mirroring the 4-2-3-1 which the Spaniard himself favours.
Regardless of who is in the starting lineup, going toe-to-toe with the Reds in formation, hoping to stifle them at one end and break down one of the league’s best defences at the other, will be a tough task for the north London club.
It’s also Emery’s birthday on November 3, the day of the match; Klopp and the Reds will be hoping they’ll be the ones celebrating at full-time, though.