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  • By Charlie Stong at Emirates Stadium

Arteta insists Arsenal have options to cope with injuries up front

Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal have striking options available to them following a number of injuries to key forward players ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.

The Gunners travel to Portugal to face Sporting Lisbon on Thursday in the last 16 of the Europa League.

They then face a trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Sunday, before the return against Sporting, and two home games in the league against Crystal Palace and Leeds United.

But they will play at least some of those five games without many of their main striking options.

Gabriel Jesus is thought to be still slightly short of a return to action, while injuries to Eddie Nketiah and Leandro Trossard are likely to keep them out until the Eagles arrive at the Emirates on March 19.

Arteta played Gabriel Martinelli through the middle for much of Saturday’s dramatic win over Bournemouth after Trossard’s injury and, speaking after the 3-2 win, the Gunners boss said: “The way they (Bournemouth) were defending, we thought it was the best way to do it.

“We have alternatives. Emile (Smith Rowe) can play in that position. We can move players, we have Reiss (Nelson) as well, who can give us width and threat in wider areas.

“(Trossard) is a worry. He came to me and said ‘I cannot continue. I felt something when I was tracking back after the corner’.

“We had to take him off and we have to assess him and see how he is.

“We have to assess every opponent. Now we have Lisbon, a really tough match. Let’s hope we get one or two players back.”

Smith Rowe returned from a lengthy lay-off on Saturday and Arteta explained why he brought the youngsters off after bringing him on earlier in the game.

He said: “We didn’t plan to throw him in so early. We knew it was difficult for him to last 70 minutes on the field after missing nearly five months.

“I think he had a good impact, but at the end I felt we needed something else on the left because we were lacking threat and we were attracting more players in to that side.

“That’s why we made the decision to bring Reiss on.”

Nelson struck the winner deep into added time, to maintain the Gunners’ five-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, with 13 games still to play.

Arteta said of Nelson: “I always saw the potential, the talent and the desire for him to do it, but he’s at a different level right now.

“I think emotionally, the experiences that he had helped him.

“Football-wise, it was my decision in the last two games not to play him because we had other options.

“But he was knocking on the door. He’s been training really well and it’s a good lesson for me and for the coaches that we need him and that he can be really important for the team.”

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