Mikel Arteta could be handed a Bukayo Saka or Declan Rice injury blow in the coming days despite receiving a double Arsenal fitness boost last week. Saka and Rice have been very important to England and Gareth Southgate over the last few years, however they both had to settle for a spot on the bench in the Three Lions’ European championship qualifier against Malta.
Just beyond the hour mark, the pair were introduced to the game with Saka assisting Harry Kane’s goal which made it 2-0 with Rice of the belief he added a third moments later only for the goal to be disallowed. Given how crucial they have been for Arteta in the early stages of the 2023/24 campaign, any rest is welcome, especially considering they seem too important to be rested by the Gunners, unless absolutely necessary.
In Premier League action, Saka’s only absence came in the 1-0 win over Manchester City while Rice was withdrawn at half time in the 2-2 North London Derby draw against Tottenham. With England having already qualified for next summer’s tournament, another bench appearance against North Macedonia this evening is certainly possible and Arteta will be hoping that is the case for a number of reasons.
Both Saka and Rice will be needed this weekend when Arsenal travel across London to take on Brentford in Premier League action. Meanwhile, the likelihood of either suffering an injury if they play for England tonight is perhaps higher than usual.
That is because several managers and players, including Southgate, have expressed concerns over the pitch at the National Arena Todor Proeski Stadium. Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Southgate said, “I know they’ve relaid it. I would imagine it hasn’t quite knitted, but we’ll see.
“That’s why you want to make sure you’re qualified well in advance. We said that right at the start of the qualifying campaign, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get away from home.” While the outcome is at the forefront of the England manager’s mind, every Premier League manager with a player called up to represent England will likely be more focused on hoping their players avoid any damage this evening.
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Injuries have been very common in most fixtures played this season with Arsenal dealt more than their fair share. Saka has previously limped off in games against Tottenham, Bournemouth, Sevilla and RC Lens, however the only serious issue arose from the latter. However, concern will still be high if any quick turn is made in the pitch by Saka where his studs get stuck into the ground.
Arteta has perhaps already been sent a warning about the worst-case scenario with Barcelona star Gavi, who like Saka has played a hefty amount of minutes at such a young age, said to have damaged his ACL while in action for Spain against Georgia on Sunday with a lengthy lay-off expected.