Mikel Arteta ‘hopeful’ Saka will be fit for World Cup; Nelson ‘hopes’ Arsenal can go all the way

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has said he hopes Bukayo Saka will be fit for the World Cup after he went off injured against Nottingham Forest.

Saka assisted the first goal of the game as the Gunners battered Forest 5-0 in the Premier League.

He was visibly struggling after picking up a knock and was substituted after receiving treatment for a second time.

His replacement, Reiss Nelson, had himself a terrific afternoon, netting twice and assisting Thomas Partey, who scored another belter.

On his performance and the win, Nelson said: “It was amazing you know, we had a bit of a slow start after the goal but everyone got into the game and it was great to play in.

“Couldn’t have got gone much better than that for me after coming on. Delighted with the goals and the assist. I have been training for my chance and I got it and tried my best to take it.

“I thought I was just going to sit on the bench but you never know what happens in football. Probably one of the best days and I’m delighted for it.

“When B [Bukayo Saka] went down, it was a terrible sight to see but when I came on I loved every minute of it.

“The gaffer wants us to implement an attacking style of play and that’s what we did.

“It’s a great bunch of lads and I have been here since I was 8. I have always dreamed of being part of a great Arsenal team. This is a great team.

“Of course, it [Saka’s injury] is a huge shame for Arsenal and the nation and we will go and check now and see how he is. He’s a great boy and it’s great to have him in the team.

“We are just trying to do well for the gaffer and the team. We’re top now and it’s nice, hopefully we can go all the way.”

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After Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring he held up Pablo Mari’s shirt as the Arsenal players dedicated the goal to the on-loan Monza defender, who was stabbed in Milan on Thursday.

“We found out after the game [against PSV], it was really bad and unfortunate and some of the lads wished him well on the phone.

“He is a great guy and we wish him well in his recovery.

“We all said in the group chat when we heard the news that we would hold up Mari’s shirt and hopefully he will see the gesture and know that he is still very much a part of the group.”

Gunners manager Arteta says it was a “tricky afternoon” despite it looking anything but.

“I’m really happy,” he told the BBC. “I know how difficult it is to get three points after playing every three days.

“We’ve had a long week, we’ve had a lot of travelling after that defeat to come here against a team that beat Liverpool.

“It was a tricky afternoon, but I think we started really well again.

“We were in control of the game and I am really happy to be back at the top again.”

“We had a different speed and purpose right from the off and I’m happy the team did it again today.

“We had the chances and the control and we needed another goal in the first half to have an easier afternoon. But we started the second half well.

“I will look at the league table tonight! We lost it when Man City played and then we are top again so I will look at it tonight.”

Nelson had not scored a top-flight goal in 837 days and this was the 22-year-old’s first league appearance since the opening day of last season, but Arteta was delighted with his impact.

“I think not only me but all his team-mates, all the staff are so happy for him because he is a kid that is really changing, he’s really evolving, he’s really maturing,” Arteta said of Nelson.

“He’s showing every day how much he wants it and today he had the opportunity and he did extremely well because it helped us win the game.”

On what had changed in Nelson’s game, Arteta added: “How mature he is, how focused he is in his profession.

“The way he talks, the way he reflects, the way he respects decisions, the way he is challenging everybody every single day.

“He is a joy of a kid. We all want him to be successful and do well. What he has done today for the team is something he really merits.”

Arteta commented on Saka’s injury, saying he is ‘hopeful’ he will be fit for England’s World Cup campaign.

Arsenal play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next week and Saka’s absence will likely be noticeable if he is still injured.

“It was a bad challenge and he was not comfortable,” Arteta said.

“No news yet so we will have to wait and see.”

“Hopefully not,” Arteta replied when asked if Saka was a World Cup doubt.

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