Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played his first minutes since the 1-1 draw with Slavia Prague when he came on against Villarreal last night.
The captain barely had 10 minutes on the pitch, but in that time he had an opportunity to grab what would have been a remarkable equaliser on a difficult night for the Gunners, who went down 2-1 to Unai Emery’s side.
The last few weeks have been a struggle for Aubameyang, who has been suffering the effects of malaria and was briefly hospitalised due to the condition.
With the all-important second leg next week, it’s going to be important to give him some more playing time, but Mikel Arteta played down his chances of starting on Sunday against Newcastle.
“He hasn’t trained much,” said the manager.
“He is still not at the level in his physique that he should be to start. We will see again tomorrow how he is.
“Yesterday he could only play a few minutes but we managed to get him on the pitch, which is great news for us.”
Arteta also has to find the balance between getting the likes of Luiz, Aubameyang and possibly Kieran Tierney back to some kind of match fitness, while not running the risk of further injuries ahead of the second leg.
The players stayed in Spain for some training in Valencia this morning, before their return to England, and preparations for the weekend.
“Let’s see who is available,” said Arteta about who might play on Sunday.
“We had a really demanding game again, the boys have had so many minutes so we will assess them tomorrow in the training session and see how everyone is, and try to get the line-up right.”