Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has revealed that defender William Saliba is not progressing from a back injury as well as the Gunners had “hoped”.
Saliba picked up the injury in their defeat to Sporting Lisbon in mid-March with the France international substituted during the match.
Arsenal team-mate Oleksandr Zinchenko has been suffering from a muscular injury and Arteta has confirmed that the Ukrainian is not quite ready to play yet.
Arteta told reporters ahead of their match against Southampton on Friday: “Not big news, the picture hasn’t changed since last week. With William he hasn’t progressed as much as we would have hoped.
“We want to be very certain when we push him that he is ready to absorb the load. With the risk we would take at the moment that is not possible to do.
“Probably next week we will have a little bit more certainty. He is not ready yet to throw him on the pitch and compete with the intensity demanded in this league.”
On Zinchenko – “We are not certain. It is a muscular injury and needs some time to heal.”
Some pundits, fans and sections of the media have been quick to claim Premier League leaders Arsenal are bottling their title chances after they threw away a two-goal lead to draw against West Ham on Sunday.
That result saw second-placed Manchester City gain ground over the weekend with Pep Guardiola’s side now four points behind Arsenal with a game in hand.
But Arteta insists his Arsenal side have “full belief” in their title chances and a win against Southampton can take them seven points clear again with Man City in FA Cup action over the weekend.
Arteta added: “Our players have full belief in what we do. What is at stake is incredibly beautiful and we want to fight for it..
“Tomorrow, the best thing we can do is play really well, create an incredible atmosphere and win that game.
“We are very confident. We know there will be twists and turns, that is part of anything you do in football.
“You have to know that and be prepared for that. The way the team has reacted this week has been incredibly positive and we want to see that tomorrow night.”
Arteta continued: “Every game is an opportunity to improve as a team. Every game is a gift to show how you have improved.
“The necessity of the teams [fighting relegation] is one thing, but also the quality. Every team in his league has quality.
“We need to have determination and passion. The club hasn’t fought for this position for a very long time. It is in our hands and we want to do it.”
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