Arsenal have suffered a blow in their preparations for Sunday’s clash with Chelsea, as £50m signing Ben White has been ruled out of the game after testing positive for coronavirus.
The 23-year-old made his full competitive debut in the 2-0 defeat to Brentford, but doubts grew over his availability for the London derby with the Blues after he was absent from training.
Before kick off The Athletic reported that White would miss the Gunners’ home tie with Chelsea after falling ill during the week.
This comes after news recently broke that four players in the Arsenal squad had been ruled out for the season opener after contracting COVID-19, meaning that a possible outbreak within the team was highly likely.
When announcing their team news, the Gunners then confirmed that White’s omission was Covid related.
This loss is seriously bad news for Arsenal, who see White as an important player both for now and the future. He was rushed into the starting lineup for their trip to Brentford in the Premier League’s curtain raiser in a move that potentially backfired.
The former Brighton star did not appear so self-assured in his new surroundings and struggled to get to grips with Bees forward Ivan Toney. White may well have been tasked with marking new Chelsea signing Romelu Lukaku on Sunday, but he will not be able to test himself against the Blues’ most expensive transfer.
News of White’s absence only adds to Arsenal’s nightmarish start to the new season, which has seen experienced forwards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette forced to self-isolate after contracting coronavirus.
Aubameyang was able to join up with his teammates in training on Saturday, so the captain could be available to feature in Sunday’s big tie.
“Auba tested positive for COVID-19 and was unavailable for last Friday’s match at Brentford. Auba is now negative on COVID-19 testing, is well and following all protocols for return to play. He will return to training and be assessed prior to Sunday’s match,” coach Mikel Arteta explained.
White will join Lacazette on the sidelines, with Rob Holding starting alongside Pablo Mari in defence.