Mikel Arteta has confirmed Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey is ‘very close’ to a return from the treatment room and is in contention for the upcoming fixtures against Benfica and Leicester City.
Partey has been out for almost a month since suffering an injury in the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa at the start of February. The £45million summer signing has missed Arsenal’s last three matches but could return on Thursday evening when the Gunners face Benfica in the second leg of their last-32 Europa League clash.
Arteta will be without defender Rob Holding, however, after he suffered a concussion in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League. Arsenal’s Europa League tie with Benfica is finely poised at 1-1 ahead of the second leg at the Emirates.
‘Thomas is very close, he’s got a final test today in training and if he is feeling good he will be available,’ Arteta said on Wednesday morning. ‘Regarding Rob, he is not available. He had a concussion. We used that [substitution]. He is completely fine, but obviously now we need to follow the protocols and he won’t be able to travel.’
Earlier in the week, the government announced that some fans are set to return to stadiums in May, and Arteta says he ‘cannot wait’ for supporters to come back to the Emirates.
‘I cannot wait to have our fans back in the stadium,’ he said. ‘All the players are desperate to have them back. The energy they can create, the passion they can show for our players is something we have been really missing.’ Following Arsenal’s Europa League clash against Benfica, they return to Premier League action this weekend against in-form Leicester