Arsenal suffer travel delays ahead of Champions League tie in Lens
By Mark Mann-Bryans, Lens
Arsenal’s preparations for their first away Champions League game in six-and-a-half years were thrown into chaos due to travel delays.
Mikel Arteta’s side face Lens in their Group B clash at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis on Tuesday night but had to cancel their pre-match press conference on the eve of the game.
The Arsenal boss was due to speak to the media with France defender William Saliba at 1900 local time but their chartered flight was grounded at Luton airport.
The Gunners had trained at London Colney at 1130BST before being due to travel to France on Monday afternoon but bad weather saw those plans cancelled.
The PA news agency understands Arsenal will not face a fine as the cancellation was out of their control – with the squad waiting over three hours at Luton before being able to make the short hop over the channel.
Among the travelling party stuck at Luton were Bukayo Saka – who was passed fit to travel despite limping off injured at Bournemouth on Saturday – and fit-again midfielder Thomas Partey.
Partey had been sidelined since August with a groin injury and the club hoped to have him back for the visit of Manchester City on Sunday.
“He’s progressed really well in the last two weeks and he managed to train in the last two or three days with the team and that’s great news for us, obviously,” Arteta said of the Ghana international.
“I think his progression in the last week has been very good. He might have some exposure tomorrow depending how the game goes.”
Both Arteta and Saliba later spoke to a small number of reporters over the phone and the latter insisted everything would be fine heading into the game.
Asked if he was confident the team would still be at their best, he replied: “Yes, of course. We have to arrive first but tomorrow is another day and we will give our best against Lens.
“It is a really good feeling. My second game in the Champions League with Arsenal. I can’t wait to play in France so it is a good feeling.
“We know it won’t be an easy game. It is a really good team who finished second last season.
“They didn’t start well but in the last two or three games, they are better so we have to be focused on tomorrow and give our best.”