Mikel Arteta has revealed that trio Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Kieran Tierney are all 'in contention' to feature in Arsenal's Europa League semi-final clash with Villarreal on Thursday evening.
The Gunners are two games away from a European cup final, after comfortably dispatching Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals at the beginning of April. But question marks have lingered over the fitness of three key players, in their quest to defeat former manager Unai Emery in the final four.
Arsenal boss Arteta came bearing good news ahead of Thursday's trip to Spain, as he confirmed that Aubameyang, Lacazette and Tierney are 'all in contention' for the Villarreal game.
“They are all in contention, all of them - including Aubameyang, Laca and Kieran. They are all in contention for the game,” Arteta said.
Tierney's recovery from what appeared to be an extremely serious knee injury has been remarkable, but Arteta explained that the Scotland international did not require surgery, and has worked 'like a beast' to return to full fitness.
“He didn’t need the surgery that at the beginning we were afraid of,” said Arteta.
“Then he has been working like a beast every single day. And I don’t know if he is going to make it tomorrow, but certainly he wants to be as close as possible to that football pitch to give himself the best possible chance.”
The pressure is on Arsenal to succeed in the Europa League this season, or they risk missing out on European football for the first time in 25 years. But Arteta has claimed the Gunners won't take any 'risks' if their players are not completely up to speed.
“We do need them because we know that we have some players that are in contention and they are the ones that can make the difference in a big tie like this,” he explained.
“But the word risk, I don’t like it. I want to put players on the pitch that can perform and feel secure they can perform. If it is a risk or we are going to take a gamble, I don’t think it is the right game to do it.”