Mikel Arteta was "surprised" the Premier League gave Arsenal's opening game against Brentford the go-ahead after several of his squad tested positive for coronavirus prior to the fixture.

The Gunners, who lost the game 2-0 last Friday, were without strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexndre Lacazette in addition to playmaker Willian and back-up goalkeeper Alex Runarsson, all of whom were self-isolating.

Lacazette and Runarsson will again be missing for Arsenal's clash against Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, although Aubameyang has returned to training while Willian is being assessed.

The Premier League does not have specific thresholds for a number of coronavirus cases to force a fixture postponement, but Aston Villa rearranged matches last season after their squad was hit by a significant number of cases. 

"I was surprised but the regulations or the regulators decided the best thing to do was play the game," Arsenal head coach Arteta said.

“What we did is what we had to do, through the club, through the club doctor as well. He explained the situation, how it developed and the risk that we considered.

"We had an incredible 48 hours before the match which created a big uncertainty. It was probably an unprecedented Arsenal line-up."

Arteta said most his players have now been jabbed against COVID-19 but indicated it was not mandatory for the players.

"Most of them are double vaccinated. Others they have one vaccine," he added.

"We are trying to encourage them to get vaccinated because they are going to protect themselves, their families, obviously the environment around the club."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has warned Alex Runarsson must learn to cope with the pressure of playing for the Gunners after a shaky start as he prepares to be the likely replacement for the suspended Bernd Leno.

Germany international Leno was sent off late on in Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Wolves, thus ruling him out for Saturday's trip to Aston Villa.

Runarsson was the back-up on the bench and played the latter stages of the game, though he did little to endear himself to Gunners fans as he looked nervous when haplessly booting the ball out of play for a corner shortly after coming on.

The Icelandic keeper was signed from Dijon in pre-season to replace the departed Emiliano Martinez, but errors in Europa League games against Rapid Vienna and Molde left fans questioning his acquisition.

Arsenal reportedly tried to offload him again in January and they brought in Mat Ryan on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion to cover for Leno.

But with Ryan still yet to train, Runarsson looks a likely choice between the posts at the weekend, and Arteta is urging him to prove the doubters wrong.

"[Ryan] has not been available to train yet, and Alex is available so we will have the choice between him and Alex to be made," Arteta said on Thursday. "If Mat is able to train and they are both fit, we have a decision to make; if Mat is not fit then Alex will go on.

"Alex knew his role before we signed him, and obviously knows his role after we signed him. We had a plan on the goalkeeper position, and we could not execute [it] the way we wanted, but Alex's role was very clear around the squad.

"He needs to earn his opportunity, needs to earn his place, depending on his performance. He needs to push for that."

Arteta believes criticism of Runarsson is the reality of playing for a club the size of Arsenal and that he must get used to it if he is to have a long-term future there.

"This is what you face when you play for a big club," Arteta continued. "People expect when you go out there to give your best and perform at the top level, and if you don't you get that criticism.

"You know that before you join the club, you know that you are exposed all the time to critics.

"As well, if you do really well everyone is going to be praising you more than at any other club. You have to be able to handle that pressure if you want to play here.

"He works really hard. He's fitted really well around the dressing room, he's a really nice boy, really humble. He needs to be away from all the comments and focus on his work, focus on improving."

Arsenal are looking to sign a new goalkeeper in the transfer window, Mikel Arteta has confirmed.

Having sold Emiliano Martinez to Aston Villa in September in a reported £20million deal, the Gunners have gone through the season with Bernd Leno and Alex Runarsson, signed from Dijon last year, as their senior keepers.

Runarsson has made four appearances in the Europa League and just one in domestic competition, in the EFL Cup against Manchester City, when he made two mistakes in a 4-1 defeat at Emirates Stadium in December.

The Iceland international could be allowed to leave on loan this month as Arteta explores options to bolster the position, with third-choice Matt Macey having now joined Hibernian.

"We are assessing the situation with the three positions on the goalkeeping area and we will find a different solution, probably in this window," Arteta said on Monday.

"We are assessing what is going to happen with the three positions, the discussions we had in the summer within the club are a little bit different to what actually happened because of the transfer window and the situation that developed with Emi.

"We didn't have much time to do what we really wanted to do and we decided to assess the situation in this window, which is what we are trying to do and we will make a decision on how we want to move forward in those three positions."

Arteta is still waiting for news on the future of Mesut Ozil, who is expected to leave the Gunners this month, with Fenerbahce and MLS side DC United most heavily linked.

"My understanding is that nothing has changed from the last press conference," he said. "[Technical director] Edu and the club are having some conversations about the near future and the long-term future and when we know something, we will announce it.

"It's always difficult to handle this situation when you are left out of the squad. It's been difficult for everybody to have players who weren't in the squad – it wasn't only him – because you need them motivated, training well and being part of what we are trying to do and they don't feel like they can contribute to that. It's always tricky. We have tried to manage that in the best possible way."

Arteta, who was not willing to discuss rumours linking the club with Diego Costa and Emiliano Buendia, hopes to have Thomas Partey fully fit for Thursday's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace.

The Gunners boss is awaiting further updates on Gabriel Martinelli, who had a scan on an ankle problem on Monday.

"We don't know how bad he is," he said of the striker. "He's getting a scan this morning. We didn't look after the game [a 2-0 win over Newcastle United in the FA Cup] because he was in a lot of pain but yesterday he tested it a little bit better, so let's hope. We have a scan today so let's hope it's not as serious and we can have Gabi back really soon."

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