Mikel Arteta says he’ll know more about the state of his squad after today’s training session but he confirmed Declan Rice, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka had not been able to train this week.
The quartet all sat out Wednesday’s Carabao Cup win over Brentford and the boss today confirmed that knocks had also forced William Saliba and Fabio Vieira to miss the trip to West London.
The manager wasn’t asked about Thomas Partey, who has been sidelined since early September, but it’s assumed that Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth will come too soon for the Ghanaian.
It’s clear Arteta faces some tough decisions in the next 24 hours about who, if anyone, to risk on the South Coast, especially with a Champions League trip to Lens on Tuesday and a crunch clash against Manchester City in a week’s time.
Facing the media in his pre-game press conference on Friday morning, Arteta confirmed said of Rice, Martinelli, Trossard and Saka: “They are all in the same pool and Willy [Saliba], as well had a knock. Fabio [Vieira] as well wasn’t involved in the last game.
“So we have a few [with issues], we have to assess them today, how they are and then adapt to the situation because that’s a big number.
“They [Saliba and Vieira] weren’t fit enough to be in the squad [on Wednesday]. My hope is that everybody is fit and available because we need them with the amount of games that we have already under our belt in the last two weeks and what is coming in the next seven to ten days. We need them, so hopefully today we get some good news.”
Asked whether he is looking ahead to next week’s games, particularly in relation to the availability of Bukayo Saka, Arteta responded, “The assessment is, is he fit enough? Has he done enough to be able to be selected tomorrow? That’s the question mark and so far he hasn’t trained with the team.”
Vital to Arsenal’s attack, the England international is currently on a club-record run of consecutive starts in the Premier League. When it was put to him that Saka will want to keep that going, Arteta said, “That would mean that he’s feeling good, you know, and B has got now enough experience and understanding of when he’s ready to help the team and when he’s not.
“But that’s what all the managers want to hear, that they want to play and they are feeling good to play.”
Why Arsenal have suffered a spate of injuries at the same time isn’t easy to answer. It’s certainly not ideal timing given the club’s Head of Medical Services, Gary O’Driscoll, recently departed for Manchester United.
Reflecting on the situation, Arteta said: “Different reasons [are the cause]. Some of them happened in training and some of them were knocks, some very small muscular niggles, but as well the load.
“Coming from before the national team, after the national team, the load went through the roof, the demands continued to be really high and the fact that we had three or four out already didn’t give enough time to some of them to have the exposure that they needed.”