Mikel Arteta has played down concerns about Bukayo Saka’s fitness after he was forced off the pitch during Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Sevilla in the Champions League.
Saka scored in front of England manager Gareth Southgate to help the Gunners secure a third Group B win and move closer to the last 16.
Arteta replaced goalscorer Leandro Trossard and the excellent Gabriel Martinelli in the 81st minute but kept Saka in the game and seconds later he went down holding his ankle after landing awkwardly before limping off.
Arsenal host Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday and Southgate will name his England squad for this month’s European Championship qualifiers against North Macedonia and Malta on Thursday, but Arteta suggested his six-goal striker would be fine. despite this last difficult encounter.
He said: “Eventually he became uncomfortable continuing. I hope it’s not too much, but I’m very pleased with his performance.
“I think he gets used to it (being kicked). I don’t think that’s going to change, especially in the way he plays and the way he attracts players, so he better get used to it because I don’t think that’s going to change.
“It was just a blow and the physios told me on the radio that he was not happy to continue. So he’s going to have some discomfort, but hopefully, I’m guessing he’ll be fine.”
After the controversy surrounding last weekend’s defeat to Newcastle, where Arteta described VAR’s decision to award Anthony Gordon’s winner as “embarrassing”, it was a much-needed routine evening for his injury-plagued side.
With Eddie Nketiah out with an ankle injury and joining Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Jesus on the sidelines, Trossard led the line and broke the deadlock with a deft finish in the 29th minute.
Jorginho unlocked the Sevilla defense with a superb through ball to Saka, who laid on Trossard to score his fifth goal of the campaign.
Saka, who was fouled four times in the first 17 minutes, earned the points with a strike in the 64th minute.
Martinelli released the England international on the right flank and Saka fired past Adria Pedrosa before he curled into the bottom corner.
If Lens had beaten PSV, Arsenal would have qualified for the knockout stages. But with a four-point gap at the top of Group B, the north London club are almost certain to continue their Champions League adventure in 2024.
Arteta added: “I think those were really good things we did against Newcastle. We didn’t need a reaction because the team did extraordinarily well against a team that is really difficult to play against.
“Today was a different requirement, tactically we needed something else and we executed what we wanted very, very well, so I’m very happy with the last two performances.”
In addition to concerns over Saki, Takehiro Tomiyasu was also sent off during the break.
“He had some discomfort in the first half,” Arteta said of the defender.
“We didn’t want to take any risks because he played a lot of minutes. Considering that Alex (Olexandr Zinchenko) is on the bench, I think it was the right decision.”
On Odegaard (hip) and Nketiah (ankle), Arteta added: “They are racing against time to be fit.
“They tried their best to be here with us today but it wasn’t possible and we still have 48 hours before the Burnley game. We will try again and see because we need players now.”
Sevilla managed to get their first shot on target only in the seventh minute of added time and suffered their second group defeat.
Boss Diego Alonso admitted: “We weren’t able to show the performance we wanted.
“Our opponents were better than us and showed good results. Our goal was to win the ball high on the field, but we were very far from their zone. This is my assessment.”