Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Sevilla came at a huge expense after all but securing qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League. The Gunners controlled and largely dominated proceedings at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night but might well pay for the game in the long run.
Having started over 80 Premier League games in a row until last month, Bukayo Saka is at risk of missing his second in a month after being taken off early with a knock. The Englishman was the standout player once again but it came at a cost as his night was cut short.
Saka scored to put daylight between the two sides in the 64th minute, running onto Gabriel Martinelli’s pass before cutting inside and finishing calmly into the far corner. He was substituted 20 minutes later though, replaced by Jakub Kiwior late on, sparking fears over his fitness once more.
He had been kicked and at the center of attention from the Spanish side throughout the game, but it didn’t stop the youngster from grabbing an assist before scoring. However he was limping around after going up for a header and was helped from the pitch. “With Bukayo it was a knock,” said Arteta afterwards.
“It was just a kick and I was told by the physios on the radio that he wasn’t happy to continue,” he continued in the press conference. “So he will have some discomfort but hopefully I am going to assume he will be OK.” The manager was also quizzed on the approach taken by their opponents, to which he responded: “There’s contact in football and obviously for the wingers who want to take people on this is going to happen.
“At the end he [Saka] wasn’t comfortable to carry on, hopefully it’s not too much but I’m really pleased with his performance.” He was then asked if the ability to withstand such attention was something that his star winger had been born with. “Born with that ? I think he’s getting used to it. I don’t think that’s going to chance especially the way he plays.”
READ MORE: Mikel Arteta provides Martin Odegaard and Takehiro Tomiyasu injury update as Arsenal fears mount
READ MORE: Mikel Arteta provides update on Bukayo Saka after Arsenal injury scare vs Sevilla
It certainly doesn’t give much away, in typical Arteta style, and the manager will give more updates on Friday ahead of the match against Burnley. Saka himself has taken to social media, writing simply: “Great response from the weekend. One step closer!”
He has now been included in England’s squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers with manager Gareth Southgate also playing it quiet on the injury front. The boss also called up James Maddison and a set of other players with niggles. “You would be amazed at how complicated it is picking a squad because all clubs are sensitive to it [releasing] information,” he said.
“I couldn’t be certain that everyone in that squad will be there on Sunday and Callum Wilson is the biggest doubt, but equally I am pretty confident the others can get through.”
Unfortunately for Arsenal this wasn’t the only injury issue on the night. Eddie Nketiah missed the game having been given an important role in recent weeks with the injury to Gabriel Jesus. The Arsenal Twitter account wrote at 6:45pm upon the announcement of the team: “Eddie Nketiah misses out on tonight’s squad with an ankle knock.”
Arteta spoke after the game about Nketiah and his captain Martin Odegaard, who was also absent for the second game in a row and the third time he hasn’t started since facing Chelsea. “They are racing against the clock to be fit,” he said. “They tried their best to be here today with us, it wasn’t possible and we have another 48 hours before we play Burnley. We’ll try again and see because we need players at the moment.”
This still wasn’t the last of the blows for Arteta as his squad gets severely tested at a crucial stage of the season. Takehiro Tomiyasu started the game in place of Oleksandr Zinchenko but was taken off at half-time. “Tomi was feeling something so we didn’t want to take the risk so we bought Alex [Oleksandr Zinchenko] back,” he explained at full-time. “With the other ones hopefully they will be ok because we are missing a lot of players.”
Emile Smith Rowe, Thomas Partey and Jesus also remain out for the foreseeable future, although the latter two could be targeting a return shortly after the next international break. Jurrien Timber is the only long-term issue for now and won’t be back until 2024.
Arsenal host Vincent Kompany’s struggling Burnley on Saturday before the fortnight of international games. They then travel to Brentford and host Lens in a game that could confirm their place in the last 16 of the Champions League. There’s then eight games in December to contend with including trips to Aston Villa and Liverpool as well as hosting Brighton and West Ham.
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