Manuel Pellegrini has revealed that captain Mark Noble faces a race against time to be fit for Saturday’s Premier League game at Arsenal.
The skipper is the manager’s one fresh injury doubt as his team seeks a first win of the season at the Emirates Stadium, with long-term absentees Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini and Winston Reid the only other players unavailable for selection.
With 23 first-team squad members fit, Pellegrini has plenty of selection decisions to make as he prepares his players to tackle Unai Emery’s winless Gunners.
“In this week, we just have the three players who will continue to be injured for a couple of months more and Mark Noble has a problem with his back that means he couldn’t work.”
I think we need to trust in the one way we must play and the players must then do it well in their performance
Among those who could come into contention are defenders Issa Diop and Aaron Cresswell, neither of whom has played a competitive minute so far this term, while deadline day signings Lucas Perez and Carlos Sanchez are also pushing for starts after debuting off the substitutes’ bench in last weekend’s defeat by AFC Bournemouth.
Whoever he picks, Pellegrini has challenged his players to take their chances to impress.
“We will see, not only with Diop but we also have Cresswell that missed part of the pre-season with injury and just played 45 minutes of the last game in pre-season,” the manager confirmed. “We have Lucas Perez and Carlos Sanchez who have only been here for two weeks, so we have a good squad and it’s impossible, when all of them are fit, to play them all.
“They need to work hard and they will get opportunities. As I always say to the players: ‘We need all of you and in one moment you may have the opportunity and, when you have the opportunity, don’t miss it’. That’s the important mentality that they must have.”
The Chilean also gave Declan Rice and Michail Antonio that they could earn recalls after being dropped following the Hammers’ opening weekend defeat at Liverpool.
“There are a lot of reasons [why they were left out]. We have all the squad fit at the moment. I don’t think both of them played bad against Liverpool and that’s why they were out of the team.
“Maybe against Arsenal I can make some changes because I think the players played bad. There are a lot of reasons why, in this minute, we are trying to find the best starting XI to win the game.”
Whoever players, Pellegrini has vowed to take the same tactical approach that he employed in his opening two games in charge – namely, attacking football based on a short passing game – with the hope that his team’s level will improve with every game they play.
“We are not going to change too many things. I think we need to trust in the one way we must play and the players must then do it well in their performance.”