Arsenal manager delivered a bleak update before Thursday night’s pivotal short trip across North London with Champions League qualification firmly on the line.
Mikel Arteta has cast doubt over Bukayo Saka’s involvement in Thursday’s north London derby as Arsenal sweat on the player’s fitness.
The Gunners make the short trip to rivals Tottenham aiming to wrap up fourth place with a win. Defeat however will bring Antonio Conte’s side back into contention for the final Champions League spot and the absence of Saka would be a major blow for the visitors.
Saka came off in the win over Leeds United on Sunday and is seemingly a doubt for the derby clash. The club will look to assess him on Wednesday as they seek a definitive answer. Ben White, who has been out for several games, is also absent with Rob Holding expected to continue alongside Gabriel at the heart of defence.
Arteta said: “Thomas (Partey) is still out, Kieran (Tierney) is still out and with Ben he is still a doubt, we have to assess him and see how he is feeling, which is much better. With Bukayo it’s the same.” He added on their chances of playing: “It’s very difficult to rate with injuries, it’s just how they feel today, that’s the last day that we can assess them and try to get the feeling, basically.”
Nicolas Pepe came on for Saka and may be thrown in from the start in north London. Emile Smith Rowe and Alexandre Lacazette are also options for the Gunners boss alongside Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli.
Arsenal won this fixture back in September, claiming a dominant 3-1 success over their local rivals as their early renaissance continued. The return game was due to take place in February but the Gunners saw a highly controversial postponement request approved.
Nearly four months on and those on the red half of north London hold a narrow advantage, owing to four wins on the bounce. Arteta has put on the onus on the players, as they aim to end a five-year hiatus from Europe’s top table. He said: “The message is clear, if we win against them we are in the Champions League next season.
“You don’t need any motivation or to tell them anything more than that. The opportunity is there, we are going to play and go for it like we always do It’s how we have got into this position, and it’s how we are going to approach it.”
“Well, we all know where we want to be and the competition that we want to be involved in and in order to be able to do that we have to achieve through the Premier League this season what we want to do and the opportunity now is ahead of us.”