EPL

Saliba ruled out of Leeds match but Arteta hopeful on Partey fitness

By Sports Desk March 31, 2023

William Saliba has been ruled out of Arsenal's Premier League meeting with Leeds United with a back injury, but Mikel Arteta is hopeful of having Thomas Partey available.

France international Saliba limped off during Arsenal's Europa League clash with Sporting CP on March 16 and sat out the 4-1 league win over Crystal Palace three days later.

The 22-year-old, who has started 32 of Arsenal's 39 games this season, subsequently pulled out of France's squad for their Euro 2024 qualifiers during the international break.

Arteta had been hopeful Saliba would be available in time for the Gunners' return to action on Saturday, but the centre-back is still not ready.

"He is progressing but still has some discomfort in his back," Arteta said at Friday's pre-match press conference. "He's not going to be fit for this game. 

"We're doing everything to get him back feeling better, but he is not ready yet."

There have been suggestions Arsenal could be without Saliba for the majority of their remaining 10 league games, but Arteta does not see that being the case.

"We're very hopeful [he will return soon] and he is as well," Arteta said. "Back injuries are tricky in terms of how they evolve with the load that you put in certain areas. 

"Let’s push it and see how he copes with that. He's so willing to be back in the team. We're very positive and pushing it every day, seeing how the pain develops."

Takehiro Tomiyasu also limped off in the Sporting match, which saw Arsenal eliminated from the Europa League, and has since been ruled out for the campaign.

Arsenal had another injury scare in the week, meanwhile, as influential midfielder Partey did not play in Ghana's 1-1 draw with Angola for precautionary reasons.

But the 29-year-old is likely to feature against 14th-place Leeds at Emirates Stadium as Arsenal look to maintain – or indeed extend – their eight-point lead at the summit.

"We're positive about him. Hopefully he'll be back," Arteta said.

Arteta confirmed he otherwise has a fully-fit squad to choose from, with striker Gabriel Jesus now nearing full fitness after recently returning from a long-term lay-off.

"He's close to 100 per cent," Arteta said. "He's taken a big step forward in recent days, creating chaos in training. He's in a really good place."

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 13 meetings with Leeds in all competitions, winning 11 of those, since a 3-2 loss in May 2003 that ended the Gunners' title bid that season.

The Gunners have won six league games in a row ahead of hosting Leeds to keep Manchester City, who they still have to face away from home, at arm's length.

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