Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal were bundled out of Europe on Thursday allowing them to focus on their Premier League title challenge but they have two major injury concerns.
Star defender William Saliba limped off after 21 minutes due to a suspected lower back muscle injury, following Takehiro Tomiyasu out of the game after he sustained an apparent knee injury inside the first 10 minutes of Thursday’s 5-3 penalty shootout loss to Sporting Lisbon following a 1-1 draw.
The availability of Saliba, in particular, will be critical to Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes, holding a five-point lead from second-placed Manchester City with 11 games to go.
“I don’t know,” Arteta told reporters when asked about the pair’s injuries. “We haven’t spoken to the doctor yet but the Tomiyasu one is not looking good.”
Many observers have claimed Arsenal’s exit from the Europa League will allow them to focus on the Premier League title but Arteta would not be drawn into that.
Arteta instead urged his side to immediately turn their focus to their next league game against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
“It’s a huge blow,” he said. “No time to look back, everything is forward and everything is on Palace. It’s maximum energy for that game.
“It’s what we have. It’s now 11 games to go. It’s the focus.”
Granit Xhaka had put the Gunners ahead on Thursday but the Portuguese levelled courtesy of a stunning Pedro Goncalves strike from almost halfway in the 62nd minute, catching Aaron Ramsdale off his line.
“Incredible, it was quality a first touch,” Arteta said. “Then the vision to spot the position of the keeper and the execution was superb.
“Congratulations to Sporting. Huge blow for us, now we have 11 games to play. We know that, the first final is going to be against Palace, so everything is towards Palace.”
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