Arsenal have confirmed that star defender Kieran Tierney will miss the clash against Aston Villa because of injury.
The influential left-back has not played for the Gunners since the middle of January when they beat Newcastle 3-0 at the Emirates.
It was hoped the former Celtic ace would be pushing for a return to action against Villa this weekend, but late on Friday night the Gunners confirmed he would be absent from Mikel Arteta’s side.
In an update posted on Arsenal’s website, it read: “Kieran is continuing to be assessed for discomfort in the right lower leg and is unavailable for Saturday’s match.”
The news comes as Arsenal legend Robert Pires hailed the defender as one of the best left-backs in the Premier League and some have ranked him above Liverpool’s Andy Robertson.
He said: “Arsenal’s recruitment team did a great job signing him.
“He is young and has a lot of room for improvement and will still progress. I am not sure if he is already one of the best left-backs in the world but being one of the best in the Premier League is already not bad.
“You can see the complicity between him, Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out on the left. That’s why I consider Tierney to be one of the best left-backs in the Premier League today.”
Villa will hope to exploit the absence of Tierney as they look to get back to winning ways when they face the Gunners at Villa Park in what is the Premier League’s early kick-off.
Villa were beaten 3-1 by West Ham which led Smith to hit out at his players in what was a surprise below par performance.
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But he has urged them to bounce back in style this weekend.
“The message was that we dropped below our standards,” he said in his pre-match press conference, via Villa’s official Twitter account.
“We keep saying that if we want to be a top team, we have to keep to those standards.
“The lads understand that, and they know what they have to do to put it right.”