Arteta: We expect a huge battle against Lens

Mikel Arteta in a Champions League press conference

Mikel Arteta said the team are preparing for a ‘huge battle’ when we face Lens in France on Tuesday.

After beating PSV Eindhoven 4-0 on the opening matchday of our Champions League group stage, we are in France for our first away game in this season’s competition, taking on last season’s Ligue 1 runners-up.

Lens have found it harder going this season, and currently sit in 15th place, but Arteta is expecting a tough encounter at the intimidating Stade Bollaert-Delelis.

“I was really impressed with what they did last year,” he said on the eve of the match. “It’s incredible to finish in that position, and the way they did it, the form they had at home. This season they have been really unlucky with some results. I don’t know how they don’t have more points, so we expect a huge battle tomorrow.

“We are more than aware of it. They are a really good side and we have a huge test ahead of us tomorrow.”

The manager is able to welcome back Thomas Partey to his squad, after the midfielder missed the last six games with injury.

“He’s been progressing really well in the last two weeks, and he managed to train the last two or three days with the team. That’s great news for us obviously,” the boss said. “He’s progressing and has been very good in the past week. He is a big player and we know what he brings to the team.”

The was also a positive update on Bukayo Saka, after the winger hobbled out of our 4-0 win at Bournemouth on Saturday.  “He’s fine, he’s much better,” he confirmed. “Obviously he took a big knock but he’s recovered well and he trained today. It’s great if he’s available and we will make that call tomorrow.”

The match marks a return to France for defender William Saliba, who had four successful seasons in the top-flight in his home country before making his Arsenal debut.

“When you look how he’s developing, his role in the team, the level and consistency he’s shown in the last year or so, it’s remarkable,” Arteta said. “I don’t think you will find a lot of centre-backs doing what he’s doing.

“Credit to the players around him as well, the way they are guiding him, protecting him, inspiring him and then with the qualities he has, the presence, the physicality and composure to be a leader in the back line for a big club like us, it’s a huge compliment.”

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