Gonzalo Higuain, the man Arsenal failed to land this summer, is doubtful for Tuesday’s Champions League clash between the Gunners and Napoli.
Reports coming out of Italy suggest the forward is still available to Rafael Benitez, but the notoriously pedantic coach may choose not to gamble on his star summer signing.
Football Italia provides the latest:
(Raul) Albiol and Higuain trained separately from the rest of the squad on Monday evening due to niggling muscular problems.
However, the striker lasted only 10 minutes of this separate session and then left the field, as it’s reported the muscular pain he felt over the last few days has intensified.
Higuain has yet to be ruled out of Tuesday’s Champions League tie and is cautiously expected to feature unless Benitez opts to protect the player. Goran Pandev waits as the potential replacement.
If the Argentinian does not get the nod, it will rob the evening of one of its most fascinating sub-plots, after Napoli beat Arsenal to Higuain’s signature over the summer.
Arsene Wenger had wanted competition and support for Olivier Giroud upfront, but will instead have to watch the two men enter a 90-minute shootout if both start.
Higuain recently spoke of Arsenal’s interest to Gazzetta dello Sport, translated by Sky Sports:
I was honoured by Arsenal's interest, I have great respect for Wenger and the idea to be in his plans filled me with pride.
But I think my decision to come to Napoli was the best, I'm really happy with this choice.
Arsenal and Napoli enter the Emirates Stadium encounter on level points in Champions League Group F, having both won their opening fixtures.
Who will not qualify from Group F?
In a tight group that also features last year’s beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund, the outcome of Tuesday’s clash will play a crucial part in deciding who advances to the knockout rounds.
Given Higuain’s fitness struggles, Benitez would surely rest the player in typical circumstances, looking to the wider picture as Napoli attempt to build on their strong start in Serie A, where they are currently second in the table.
However, it is a nod to the magnitude of Tuesday’s game that Higuain may still start, with Benitez clearly believing his men must take something from their trip to North London.