The acquisition of Leandro Trossard and the return to fitness of Emile Smith Rowe means Mikel Arteta, for the first time since before the World Cup break, has options to rotate his front line.
Whether he chooses to do so for Friday’s FA Cup fourth round tie at Manchester City remains to be seen. Given it’s the first of three showdowns with Pep Guardiola’s side scheduled for the second half of the season, the Spaniard may not want to change things too much for fear of handing his former club the initiative in what’s shaping up to be an intriguing title race.
While Arteta wouldn’t be drawn on his plans for the lineup, he was more than happy to reflect on Trossard’s debut. Signed from Brighton last week, the Belgian was thrown into the fray in the closing stages of Sunday’s match with Manchester United and played his part in the build-up for the winner.
On that occasion, he replaced Gabriel Martinelli, but he might easily feature on the right or spearhead the attack from a central position in the coming weeks.
“That’s what I like about him [his versatility],” said Arteta. “I see a player that is willing to make things happen and is usually composed, especially in the final third.
“It’s something that we needed to add to the team and straightaway he had a beautiful impact on the team to help us to win.”
The man who finally put United to the sword at the Emirates was Eddie Nketiah. Two close-range finishes took his tally for the season to nine goals and underlined the shrewdness of the decision to hand him a new contract last summer. The striker, England’s record scorer at under-21 level, now has his sights on a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s senior squad.
The question is whether Nketiah can sustain his form. “That’s the challenge that we all have, not only Eddie,” said the manager.
“To be not only at that level but a better level every single day. Eddie has been very consistent, I think he has surprised a few people by the way he has responded to the huge challenge and the demands that he had after Gabby [Jesus] got injured.
“We’re positive that he can still get much better, evolve and continue to develop.”