Arsenal title hopes hit as Oleksandr Zinchenko ruled out of run-in
Arsenal are expected to be without key left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko for the remainder of the season after the Ukraine international suffered an injury in Sunday’s win at Newcastle United.
Zinchenko was substituted in the second half of Arsenal’s victory at St James' Park due to a calf problem and he is now expected to join centre-back William Saliba on the sidelines for the rest of the title race.
The loss of Zinchenko, coupled with the ongoing absence of Saliba, means that Mikel Arteta will be without two of his first-choice back four as Arsenal look to wrestle back top spot from Manchester City.
Arsenal host Brighton this weekend before meeting Nottingham Forest and then Wolves in their final two games of the season. Saliba, as has been feared for weeks, is not expected to return to action in those games.
The Frenchman has not played for almost two months, after being substituted with a back problem after 20 minutes of Arsenal’s Europa League knockout match against Sporting Lisbon in March.
Zinchenko’s first season at Arsenal since joining from Manchester City last summer has been interrupted by various niggling injury issues, with the 26-year-old missing a run of matches in the autumn.
He was also absent from Arsenal’s recent trip to West Ham United, which Arteta’s side drew 2-2 on a damaging day for their title hopes.
In his absence, Kieran Tierney is likely to start the final three matches of Arsenal’s campaign ahead of his expected departure from the club this summer.
Tierney is of interest to Newcastle United and Aston Villa, as reported by Telegraph Sport last week, and is likely to be sold in the summer transfer window as he seeks more regular game time.
The Scotland international has started only one match in the Premier League — the draw at West Ham in April — since the turn of the year, as Arteta has preferred to use Zinchenko as an inverted full-back who spends much of the game in midfield.
The loss of Saliba has been softened in recent matches by the impressive performances of young centre-back Jakub Kiwior, who has partnered Gabriel Magalhaes in the heart of Arsenal’s defence in the victories over Newcastle and Chelsea this month.
Kiwior joined the club in the January transfer window after a deal worth around £18 million was agreed with Italian side Spezia. The Poland international had started only one match, in the Europa League, before being thrown into the side who beat Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal are considering entering the transfer market for another centre-back this summer as they look to increase their squad depth in key positions. They are understood to have shown interest in Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi, although it remains to be seen whether that leads to a formal offer.
As an England international and one of the most highly rated young defenders in the Premier League, Guehi will be a costly option for any interested side. Tottenham Hotspur are also believed to be long-term admirers of the 22-year-old, who has three years remaining on his contract at Palace and could cost more than £40 million.
Meanwhile, Arsenal youngster Brooke Norton-Cuffy has been selected to represent England in this summer’s Under-20 World Cup in Argentina.
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