Mikel Arteta says he’s hoping to have William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu back to full fitness in time for the start of pre-season training in early July.
The defensive duo both suffered injuries during Arsenal’s Europa League defeat to Sporting Lisbon in March and were sorely missed during the run-in as the Gunners’ defence grew increasingly leaky.
Saliba’s back injury, seemingly sustained days before the Lisbon clash in the 3-0 win over Fulham, has been something of a mystery with the club initially hoping the Frenchman might make a swift recovery. Tomiyasu damaged knee ligaments when he slipped on the turf and required surgery on what was labelled a “significant” injury.
The Arsenal medical team have deliberately avoided putting a timeline on the Japan international’s return but Arteta sounds optimistic the player could be back sooner than anticipated.
Pressed on whether Saliba will be fit by early July, Arteta told his final pre-game press conference of the season: “It’s probably too early to say. I think he’s evolving the right way, the last few weeks have been much more positive than the previous two months.
“We wanted to protect him, it’s an injury that needs some caring and attention and we’ve been pretty conservative to give him the best possible chance to have a good pre-season so he can go again next season.”
On Tomiyasu’s situation, he continued: “I think he will be really close, hopefully he will be around in pre-season like Willy [Saliba] to be in a good place.
“He’s been working so hard the boy, it’s been a really difficult year for him with the issues he’s had, he’s a tremendous person, a top professional and we just want him to be available because when he’s available, he really helps the team.”
Saliba and Tomiyasu are expected to stay in London to continue their rehab when the rest of the players head off on international duty and then holiday following the conclusion of the campaign. They will be joined in the treatment room by Gabriel Martinelli, who suffered an ankle injury against Brighton, and Mo Elneny, who is making his own comeback from knee surgery.
As the training ground empties out in the coming weeks, Arteta says the club have to take extra care of them.
“We have probably more then ever long-term injuries and those players have to keep working through the summer and psychologically that’s something difficult because the building is empty and because they’ve been rehabbing with a lot of demands throughout the season and we want them fresh.
“We have to make sure here they are fresh at the start of pre-season to go again and to have that willingness to arrive here first day with new toys and go again.”
Asked what measures the club will take to ensure injured players have the necessary support, he said: “With the staff and myself being close to them. First of all, understand them. How they are feeling, what they need, what they think is the best for them, and whether what they think is the best for them is actually the best for them and the club as well. And try to find that balance. The way to do that is to communicate.”
Heading into Sunday’s match with Wolves, it sounds as though there are also doubts over the fitness of three other attackers.
“We had some issues this week, to be fair the last few weeks, as you noticed some players were unable to play and participate in the games,” explained Arteta.
“With Reiss [Nelson], we have a little bit of an issue with Bukayo for a few weeks, with Leo [Trossard]. The rest, I think are going to be fine.”