Mikel Arteta has refused to rule out William Saliba and Oleksandr Zinchenko for the rest of the season despite reports surfacing that neither will be fit in the coming weeks.
The France international has been sidelined by a persistent back problem since early March and despite the best efforts of the medical team to get him back on the grass, progress has been slow.
“With William, it’s for sure he’s not going to be fit for this game and we are doubting whether he will be for the next game as well but we want to keep the hope going and give ourselves the best chance to bring them back,” said the manager on Friday.
Zinchenko suffered a calf injury in the 2-0 win over Newcastle on Sunday and had to be substituted just past the hour mark.
The 26-year-old picked up a similar issue earlier in the season and missed 10 games over a six-week period. All the same, Arteta said “no” when asked if the Ukrainian’s season was definitely over.
“We have another session tomorrow before the Brighton game, we are trying to get players back for that and to hopefully have them train on the pitch. We’ll know more tomorrow.”
Asked about Kieran Tierney potentially stepping into the breach, Arteta made clear that all his players need to be ready to perform whenever they are called upon.
“The opportunity is for everybody, every game. They have to prove they are up to it and then I will make the right or the wrong decision with the lineup and giving the players the minutes that they deserve.
“It’s really difficult to be fair with players because it’s a sport where you pick 11 players to play and some to be sub but it’s not always right, but we do it all the time with the best of intentions.”
Since signing from Spezia in January, Jakub Kiwior has had to be patient for his chance to shine. The manager initially turned to the right-footed Rob Holding to replace Saliba in March but in the last two weeks it’s the Pole who has been handed consecutive starts. The 23-year-old has left a strong impression on Arteta.
“He’s been really impressive, really composed, really calm. He’s been brilliant,” said the boss.
“Obviously two very difficult opponents [Chelsea and Newcastle] with a lot of individual talent to defend in many situations and he’s dealt with the situations in a great way.”