Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has confirmed that England winger Bukayo Saka is “fine” and available to play against FC Zurich on Thursday if needed.
Saka limped off against Nottingham Forest on Sunday after suffering an ankle injury.
He assisted his side’s opening goal in the fifth minute but left the pitch 22 minutes later.
Arsenal didn’t miss their star winger, running out 5-0 victors with his replacement Reiss Nelson scoring two and assisting one.
Speaking on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash against FC Zurich, Arteta told reporters that Saka is “fine” and has missed no more than two training sessions since Sunday.
Asked if he could be fit in time for the Zurich match, Arteta replied: “Yes.
“Bukayo just missed one or two (training sessions) and he was fine today.
“We’re using our brains and our common sense, but obviously he had a kick. He was uncomfortable with it, we made the decision to get him off and now he’s feeling fine.”
Arteta was involved in a heated touchline debate with both Saka and club doctor Gary O’Driscoll and explained Saka was trying to play through the pain before the decision was taken to replace him with Nelson – who went on to score twice in the comfortable victory.
“The conversation was easy – ‘he’s in, or he’s out’ – but in between we can’t have a player (injured) for five, six, seven minutes,” he added.
“So you are on the pitch or you are outside the pitch, or you’re going to be outside the pitch then sit on the floor and get off.
“We have to make a decision and that’s it because we cannot delay a situation like that because every minute that a player is not 100 per cent to play is costing the team and we need to make those decisions quickly.”
This is huge news for Arsenal and England, with the World Cup kicking off later this month.
Saka is likely to be a starter for the Three Lions in Qatar, unless manager Gareth Southgate opts to start Phil Foden or Marcus Rashford, for example.
It is a surprise that the 21-year-old has not been injured before considering how often he is hacked down in games.
Arteta was asked how referees should manage harsh challenges on the likes of Saka.
He said: “It’s their job to manage that in the best possible way.”
Arsenal will finish top of their Europa group ahead of PSV – who beat the Gunners 2-0 last week – with a victory against Zurich at the Emirates.
Arteta has been further boosted by the returns of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Mohamed Elneny.
Elneny has only played once this term before being ruled out with a thigh injury. He is now back in full training and could feature against the Swiss side.
Zinchenko – who joined Arsenal from Manchester City in the summer transfer window – has been excellent when available this season.
He has been the most injury prone in the squad, however.
The Ukrainian international has been limited to only one Europa League and five Premier League appearances in 2022-23.
Arteta confirmed that Zinchenko has only had two training sessions, and that Elneny is “recovering in a good way” after his lengthy injury layoff.
“They are in different stages,” the Arsenal boss explained.
“Mo had a long-term injury and recovering in a good way. [Zinchenko] just two training sessions.”
Many fans have noticed that summer signing Gabriel Jesus is going through a goal drought.
The Brazilian striker has not scored in Europe this season, and his last domestic goal coming against Tottenham Hotspur on October 1.
Arteta is not worried, especially after the 25-year-old grabbed a couple of assists against Steve Cooper’s side on Sunday.
“If he makes three assists in a game I don’t think he has to make many adjustments,” Arteta said.
The Gunners boss also commented on the rumours that FC Barcelona are interested in him.
“Barcelona now they are in a really good path, with a phenomenal coach,” he said.
“You have to be very respectful of that.”
Arteta says he will plan some friendlies for his players not at the World Cup in Qatar.
He said: “Yeah, we will have some friendly matches for sure. We need to because we have 10, 11, 12 players here and they need it.”
The Football Association later confirmed Arsenal had been fined £20,000 for failing to control their players in the recent win over Leeds.
The Arsenal players reacted badly when Gabriel Magalhaes was sent off, before VAR overruled the decision to award Leeds a late penalty and downgraded the red card to a booking.
A statement from an FA spokesperson said: “Arsenal FC has been fined £20,000 for breaching FA rule E20.1 during their Premier League fixture against Leeds United FC on Sunday 16
“An independent regulatory commission imposed this sanction after Arsenal FC admitted failing to ensure that its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion during the 92nd minute of the fixture.”
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