August 18, 2022

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka of Arsenal warm up prior to the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 26, 2020 in London, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Andrew Boyers - Pool/Getty Images)

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has been handed a double boost ahead of their Premier League clash against Aston Villa on Friday night with both Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney returning to training.

The pair started in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Monday night, where a late Alexandre Lacazette goal salvaged a point for the Gunners.

The Frenchman’s strike saw Arsenal extend their unbeaten run under Arteta to six games.

However, they did lose Saka to injury, with the versatile wide man withdrawn at the break after a crunching tackle from James McArthur.

The 20-year-old was a major doubt for Friday’s clash with Dean Smith’s side, along with Tierney, who sat out training earlier this week due to bruising.

Bukayo Saka has already returned to training with Arsenal despite an injury scare

But the duo were both in training on Thursday and look set to win their race to be fit.

Arteta’s side will be bidding to get back to winning ways after drawing their last two Premier League games.

They were fortunate to snatch a last-gasp reprieve against the Eagles on Monday, with the visitors impressing under the tutelage of Gunners legend Patrick Viera.

It was left to Lacazette to rescue the Spaniard, with the Frenchman now pushing for his first league start of the season.

Arteta gave nothing away when it came to Lacazette’s chances of earning a start against Villa, but did praise the 30-year-old’s contribution in recent weeks.

“I had no doubts about that (his work ethic),” insisted Arteta when discussing Lacazette.

“If I had, probably I would suggest to do something different with him in the summer, when a player could not find the motivation or if his interests are just with his financial future.

“It is not the case with Laca, and he has shown that since I have been here every single day. That’s why he is a really important player for us.”

He added on his performance against Palace: “He created a different atmosphere straight away, with his determination and his quality and he tried to change the result straight away and [had] that belief in himself that he could do it.”

Arsenal’s meeting with Villa on Friday night has thrown Smith’s pursuit of Emile Smith-Rowe back under the spotlight.

Villa bid for the talented Gunners starlet in the summer, only to see their bids knocked back.

Arsenal have since tied Smith-Rowe down to a bumper new contract, and Arteta shed some light on the situation – revealing that an exit for the 21-year-old was never on the cards.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has been handed a double boost ahead of Friday night's clash with Aston Villa

“Any club has the right to make an enquiry about a player and if they believe they have the financial power to get him, they are entitled to make a bid,” Arteta added.

“There was communication between clubs regarding Emile and we made it really clear he was not for sale.

“I was never worried he could leave because he is a big part of our future and what we’re trying to do as a club.

“He is really happy where he is and I’m delighted to have him in my team.”


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