Arsenal boss Arteta rubbishes John Stones link as Gunners gear up for Sheffield United
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane via Getty Images

Mikel Arteta has insisted there is no truth in stories linking Manchester City defender John Stones with Arsenal.

The England centre-half has been rumoured to be joining the Gunners in the January transfer window as Arteta seeks to bolster his backline.

With Calum Chambers ruled out for the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee during the home match with Chelsea last month, as well as Kieran Tierney not expected to resume full training until the end of March, Arteta is short of defenders.

With Konstantinos Mavropanos joining German second division club FC Nurnberg on loan until the end of the season and Shkodran Mustafi also expected to depart the north Londoners this month, Arteta needs to add numbers to his depleted defence.

However, the 37-year-old head coach insisted there was simply 'no truth at all' in Stones heading to Arsenal, adding: "John is a player that I really like and I followed.

"We signed him when I was at Manchester City and I worked with him for many years and know him well.

"When I look at centre backs he has many attributes that I like from one, but we’re not interested."

Arteta also confirmed Sead Kolasinac and Lucas Torreira are being assessed ahead of the Premier League match against Sheffield United at the Emirates on Saturday.

"[Kolasinac] had a normal session yesterday. He has been in some discomfort, we know this season that he had some little niggles, so we have to assess him and see if we can get him fit for Saturday or he will be out," explained Arteta.

"Torreira is in a very similar situation. He trained yesterday as well, but still not 100 per cent confident so we will have to wait and see again," he said, describing the nature of the midfielder's injury, adding: "It is something related to his hip, producing some pain in the muscle.

"He is a tough boy, he wants to train, he wants to play and hopefully he will be available for the weekend."

Arteta also gave an update on Hector Bellerin saying he had been training with the first team for the past few days.

He said: "He is looking much sharper, much better. He needs a little chunk of training sessions before he is ready to compete but he is looking much better."

Arteta was coy about transfer targets denying there was any truth in links with AC Milan’s Franck Kessie saying to journalists, including VAVEL, at the club's training ground London Colney:  "I have bad news for you guys, I have nothing to say yet [on transfers]."

The Gunners boss also confirmed club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will miss three matches after the club's appeal to downgrade his red card failed.

Aubameyang was sent off after a rash challenge on Crystal Palace's Max Meyer at Selhurst Park on Saturday after VAR decided his late tackle should have been upgraded from a yellow card to a straight red.

The influential striker will miss the home match with the Blades on Saturday as well as the clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next Tuesday and the FA Cup fourth-round tie at Bournemouth the following Monday.

Aubameyang suspension is a "big shame"

Arteta said: "It has been confirmed that he is going to be suspended for three games. So we're not going to have the player for the next three fixtures.

"It's a big shame and a big loss for us, because as well we know Auba's intention when he plays. But unfortunately, he mistimed the tackle, he made a decision and we have to accept it.

"He was very sad after the game. He was disappointed that he left the team with 10 men. It's an action that is completely accidental in my opinion. He's been superb under me, he's trained really well, he's working so hard. He's scoring goals and has probably been the most important player on the team. So to lose him, obviously, is really bad news for us.

"I hope we can play better and even win the games and he will be pushing for that as well. Players have to step up. You know, when one of your big players is not there, they have to take responsibility. I'm sure when they're not playing, they want a chance and they talk.

"It's time to talk on the pitch, not outside. You come on there, you make the impact that he made and you sure me that you are as good as him or even better. You have the chance."

Arteta also took time to praise Chris Wilder's side as the Gunners step up their focus on Saturday's match. 

The Bramall Lane outfit have taken the top flight by storm with their organisation and solidity and sit in sixth place on 32 points.

The south Yorkshire side beat Unai Emery's Arsenal 1-0 back in October in a performance which was as impressive as Emery's side was awful, in a match which precipitated the beginning of the end for the former Gunners boss. 

"I've been very impressed," said Arteta. "I've seen a lot of games and everything is prepared. Everything they do has a real sense, they are really difficult to break down.

"The solidarity in their team is incredible, how hard they work for each other and they have very clear principles - in attack and in defence, restarts of play, set-pieces - with what they want to do. So it will be a very difficult test. I already warned the players today.

Arteta warns Arsenal players about Sheffield United quality

"The work Chris Wilder has done is phenomenal and he’s done some special things as well with some movements and characteristics of how he moves his team around, and the demands that he puts on his players.

"What I like about a manager is when I see a team and they are a real team that fights for every single ball with their attitude and behaviour, as well as their intentions for what they want to do every time.  It’s very clear what he’s trying to do, so I have big admiration for him."

Arteta also discussed the lack of form from former Lyon striker Alex Lacazette saying the 'best medicine' for him was to 'put the ball in the net'.

In response to a question from VAVEL on Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos, Arteta gave a mixed response. 

Ceballos, who joined the Gunners on a season-long loan last summer from the Bernabeu, was left out of Arteta's squad which travelled to Selhurst despite being fit.

Ceballos still part of Arsenal's plans

However, Arteta insisted the attacking midfielder was still very much in his plans for the rest of the season.

"Yes," he said. "Dani had an injury where he was out for almost two months and had to go to Madrid for his rehab.

"He came back and in the first few weeks, I didn’t think that he was physically at the level to compete for starting games.

"It’s true that I have players in that position who have been performing really well, and last week when I believed that he was ready to step in, I decided to pick another player.

"But he’s been training good, I’m happy with him and I know him really well, so there’s no issues there."

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