Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal could be forced into the transfer market for a new midfielder as fears mount over an injury to Mohamed Elneny.
The Egypt international is not a regular at the Emirates Stadium, but with Arteta operating with a small squad, his absence could be felt in the Premier League title race – especially with FA Cup and Europa League games in the mix.
Arsenal have already signed Belgian striker Leandro Trossard from Brighton and Jakub Kiwior – a highly-rated Polish international defender – in the January window.
The Gunners sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League and travel to face nearest challengers Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday night.
Arteta revealed that Elneny will not feature due to a knee injury sustained in training, with a return date for the 30-year-old absentee.
The north London club have been linked with a summer move for West Ham captain Declan Rice but may need to strengthen in the current window.
“There are concerns,” Arteta replied when asked about suggestions Elneny could be out for the season.
“Mo is a player who never complains about anything. But let us see. He had some problems with his knee which we are assessing at the moment.”
Asked if that could mean Arsenal return to the market – with the likes of Amadou Onana, Weston McKennie and Moises Caicedo linked – the Spaniard added: “Well, we need some more cover in midfield, ideally if we can.
“In this market it’s quite complicated to do that. The most important thing is that we get the performances and the time on the pitch that we need with the players we have available today who are already really good.
“If there’s anything else available that can make us better, we’ll look at it.”
In addition to Elneny, Gabriel Jesus is also on the sidelines with a knee injury and will miss the game against his former team City.
“With him I don’t know,” added Arteta. “He wants to be here next week but it’s unrealistic. He pushes and drives everyone to the limit.
“I can’t give you an answer. Hopefully it will take weeks and not months, but it was a serious injury and we have to respect that process as well.”
The match at the Etihad Stadium will see Arteta face close friend Pep Guardiola, who he also worked under at City.
Asked if his relationship with Guardiola had changed now that the two are battling for the title, Arteta replied: “I always hoped it would be the case one day and it’s happening this season.
“It’s not going to change any friendship, the moments we have, how important he is in my life, how important he is in my profession.
“We are both willing to win and defend our clubs at any cost and that has always been the case since day one.
“I’d prefer to do it with someone else to be fair. I really want the best for him and when you challenge someone like that, something comes in between.
“So it’s a strange feeling, it is what it is and that’s our challenge.”