Mikel Arteta says William Saliba will return to Arsenal tomorrow having been granted a few days off following France’s defeat to Argentina in Saturday’s World Cup final.
The centre-back only made one appearance for Les Bleus at the tournament – the 1-0 group stage defeat to Tunisia – and will be reintegrated into first team training, presumably with a view to playing some part in the Boxing Day clash with West Ham United.
Facing the media on Thursday, Arteta reflected on the break and shared a few fitness updates.
“It’s been an unusual period with the World Cup but as well a period that we have used pretty well to train certain things that we needed to train. As well to spend time and focus on players that haven’t been with the national teams and now everybody is back aside from Saliba who will be back properly tomorrow.
“Let’s crack on for the second part of the season which is going to be interesting, intense and we’re looking forward to it.
He added: “They are really good, they are in a really good place. Obviously, a huge blow with Gabriel Jesus and what happened in the World Cup with his injury and we’re going to miss him for a period of time but the season has challenges and that’s a challenge that we have to overcome. If you want to be at the top you know that you have to face those types of challenges.”
“[With Saliba] let’s see [about West Ham] – that depends on how he comes back as well. We have the data of what he’s done in training, and in terms of the actual minutes he didn’t participate much but it was a huge experience for him as well. Let’s see – when he gets back we’ll make the decision.”
While Alex Zinchenko and Emile Smith Rowe are moving in the right direction on the fitness front, it would be a surprise if either is able to participate in the two remaining matches of this year.
Both players sat out the five friendlies in December and will need time to get up to speed. Smith Rowe, who has undergone surgery on his groin, hasn’t played since the defeat to Manchester United in early September. Zinchenko featured against Wolves and Chelsea before the season paused but then picked up another issue.
“Emile is close, he’s started to train again, he had a little setback but he is there and in a good place.”
While the boss confirmed that Reiss Nelson, injured in the recent friendly defeat to Juventus, was facing a few weeks on the sidelines, he was reticent to put a timeline on Gabriel Jesus’ recovery.
“With Reiss, he, unfortunately, picked up an injury in the game against Juventus and he’s going to be out for a while, I think.
“I’m talking about weeks [for Nelson], it’s not a matter of days, a few weeks. let’s see how he reacts in the coming days but he felt something straight away and with sprinters, that’s not a good sign.
“With Gabi [Jesus] it’s very difficult to put a time frame, obviously it was a significant injury. Knowing him, I’d prefer not to give any dates away.”
The Brazil international underwent a procedure on his knee a couple of weeks ago and isn’t expected to return to the pitch for a couple of months. That said, when pressed on if the player could return at the end of February, the boss was pretty snappy.
“I never gave a date, so that’s not words I used, I’ve not used those words right now, I said, we don’t know, it’s going to take some time, for sure. He’s gone through surgery so that tells you the extent of the injury.”
With regards to the rest of the World Cup participants, it sounds like they have returned in decent nick.
“They were all fine [the World Cup participants], they came in good spirits, some came earlier than expected and were busting to get back and be part of it.
“I feel a really good energy around the place and they have got straight away into the rhythm of what we want. We have a few days before Monday but we’re good. Everyone is here and in a good place.”