Arsenal’s World Cup stars Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli will start against West Ham United in the first game after the Premier League break, according to journalist Charles Watts.
The pair both reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup with England and Brazil, with Saka playing an instrumental role, whilst Martinelli made a few appearances off the bench, and they returned to club action in a 0-0 friendly draw against Luton Town behind closed doors.
A big worry for Premier League clubs was if players reaching the latter stages of the tournament would be available once the domestic action resumed, and Arsenal were dealt a blow when Gabriel Jesus picked up a long-term injury during the tournament itself.
Speaking on his YouTube channel, Watts praised the return of the pair as a welcome boost for Mikel Arteta, and noted they will have gained useful minutes in the friendly.
He said: “Great to see Saka and Martinelli back, that’s a big, big boost. They’ll certainly be starting against West Ham on Boxing Day, injury permitting.”
TIF Thoughts on Arsenal…
Having both players in the starting XI against West Ham feels imperative for a win given that Jesus and Emile Smith Rowe are still absent.
William Saliba, who reached the final with France, has missed all of Arsenal’s mid-season friendlies, and it remains to be seen whether he will be ready to return to the side with limited match fitness, having only played once in Qatar.
Elsewhere, Arsenal are in the market for more attacking depth with Mykhaylo Mudryk heavily linked, and should they land the winger, they may be able to rest Martinelli and Saka more regularly.
With Reiss Nelson also absent with a hamstring injury, we don’t think they could afford to go without their pair of star wingers, and both will have to play every game until the absentees return or the squad is reinforced to give the Gunners the best chance of maintaining their fine start to the season.