Arsenal have had their Premier League title ambitions rocked by negative reports from sources in France concerning centre-half William Saliba’s back injury.
Mikel Arteta was left counting the cost of his decision to name a strong side for the Europa League penalty shoot-out defeat to Sporting on Thursday, with Takehiro Tomiyasu and Saliba both going off injured in the first half.
There was also a supposed setback regarding the returning Gabriel Jesus which turned out to be rather less damaging.
While Tomiyasu left the Emirates Stadium on crutches with a problem Arteta suggested was “pretty serious from his reaction straight after and what he said to me,” mystery surrounded the back issue Saliba suffered.
“I don’t know, he had some discomfort and could not continue so we had to take him out,” the Arsenal manager said of that injury.
But French newspaper L’Equipe has revealed that Saliba ‘should be absent for several weeks’ and will inevitably have to withdraw from France selection during the international break.
Their report named Monaco defender Axel Disasi, Jean-Clair Todibo of Nice and Chelsea’s Benoît Badiashile as options to replace him in Didier Deschamps’ squad.
The news will come as a blow to Arsenal, who must navigate managerless Crystal Palace at home before the international break, after which they hope the outlook is a little brighter.
The Gunners could call on Rob Holding to fill in alongside Gabriel Magalhaes, with Jakub Kiwior, Benjamin White and Kieran Tierney among the other candidates in the position.
Saliba has missed just 14 minutes of their remarkable Premier League campaign after being substituted early in the 5-0 win over Nottingham Forest in October.
“We’ve been carrying injuries throughout the season,” Arteta said this week. “We had Emile [Smith Rowe] out for four months, [Gabriel] Jesus for four months, Thomas [Partey] for a month-and-a-half, Alex [Oleksandr Zinchenko] for two-and-a-half months, Eddie [Nketiah] for a month-and-a-half.
“We had quite a lot of injuries already, but we dealt with them.”
Trossard limping, Zinchenko clutching his hamstring, Tomiyasu and Saliba substituted with injuries. Potentially costly night for Arsenal, whatever the outcome in the next few minutes.
— Sam Dean (@SamJDean) March 16, 2023
Those comments came after Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag had suggested rather the opposite.
“When you see all season we have had some setbacks, every time we’ve dealt with it. It’s about the players who are available and every time there’s a team on the pitch who deals with it.
“In just one game we had the squad available totally and I was able to pick my team, from a tactical approach, perfectly – that was against Manchester City at home this season. Every other time it’s been one player suspended, injured, or unavailable through illness.
“We have to deal with it well but Arsenal, all the time their squad is totally available.”