Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta is sweating over the fitness of defenders William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu after the duo were forced off with injuries in the Europa League last-16 defeat against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday.
After playing out a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Portugal last week, the Gunners required a victory at the Emirates Stadium to advance to the quarter-finals.
However, Arteta’s side suffered a 5-3 defeat on penalties – with Gabriel Martinelli missing a decisive spot kick – after drawing the second leg 1-1 in 120 minutes, with Granit Xhaka‘s first-half opener cancelled out by a remarkable 46-yard strike from Pedro Goncalves just after the hour mark.
Arsenal they suffered their second defensive casualty on the 20-minute mark when Saliba gingerly walked off after going down with an apparent back problem, with Rob Holding brought on as his replacement.
Tomiyasu, meanwhile, has been hampered with injuries throughout the campaign and has subsequently had to play second fiddle behind White at right-back, with Thursday’s loss to Sporting just his 13th start across all competitions.
Asked for an injury update on the defensive duo after the game, Arteta told reporters as quoted by football.london: “Tomiyasu looks pretty serious from his reaction straight and what he said to me, but obviously it’s very early.
“Willy (Saliba) I don’t know, he had some discomfort and could not continue so we had to take him out.”
Arteta felt that the early enforced changes disrupted their game plan on the night, adding: “Looking at ourselves it started difficult losing Tomi and Saliba and that made it hard to manage the game because we only had a window to make the subs and a few players couldn’t play 90 minutes.
“Still, we didn’t find our rhythm and flow, allowed too many spaces, were late, didn’t dominate there and gave the ball away many times, sometimes time after time. Then in the last 20 minutes we got our flow, we got the momentum, we deserved much more.
“We created three big chances and didn’t score. When we went to extra time we showed incredible energy again and top mentality when it wasn’t our best day to keep going. We had another big two chances and didn’t win. At the end it came to the penalties and it’s a lottery and it didn’t go our way today.”
Arsenal, who are also having to cope without Mohamed Elneny (knee) and Eddie Nketiah (ankle), are next in action when they welcome Crystal Palace to the Emirates for a Premier League clash on Sunday, their final fixture of the month before the international break.
Following their Europa League elimination, Arsenal can now solely focus on the Premier League title race, with Arteta’s side currently sitting five points clear of reigning champions Manchester City, who the Gunners will lock horns with at the Etihad Stadium in April.
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