Mikel Arteta has called on other members of his Arsenal side to step up while captain and leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang serves a three-game ban.
The Gabon international was dismissed for a rash tackle on Crystal Palace midfielder Max Meyer in Saturday’s 1-1 draw between the clubs. Initially given a yellow card, Aubameyang saw red after an intervention by VAR.
Only Jamie Vardy of Leicester City (17) has more goals than Aubameyang’s 14 in the Premier League so far this season, and Arteta acknowledged he’d be hard to replace but said his team had the quality to do so.
“Losing probably the most important player is never nice,” Arteta said.
“We have other players that can play in that position. We will try to find a way and be as competitive as possible.
“They now have to make a step forward now he is not able to contribute to the team with goals.
“Someone else has to do it and I want to see that reaction too.”
One player who is unlikely to move into the starting line-up is Eddie Nketiah.
The youngster was recalled from a loan spell at Leeds United earlier in January but Arteta said his long-term development is more important than using him for a short-term fix.
“I think we have to think long term with Eddie,” he said of the England Under-20 international.
“We have to respect his evolution, his development and we don’t have to make decisions just based on two or three games.”
Aubameyang has apologised for the tackle, saying he didn’t intend to injure Meyer, but will still miss three matches, headlined by a clash with London rivals Chelsea.
The other games that he’ll miss are a league game at home against Sheffield United and an FA Cup trip to Bournemouth.
Arsenal are currently in 10th place in the Premier League table, some way short of challenging for the European qualification spots.
The Blades are currently in sixth, the last place that guarantees a bid for continental glory, four points clear of the Gunners.
Arsenal were beaten finalists in the Europa League last season, and continue their challenge for the tournament this year on February 20 when they take on Olympiacos.