Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is hopeful that French international William Saliba will return from his back injury soon, despite being ruled out for Premier League clash with Leeds at the Emirates.
The 21-year-old centre back sustained the injury during a Europa League match against Sporting CP three weeks ago and has been sidelined ever since.
Arteta, speaking at a pre-match press conference, provided an update on Saliba’s progress.
“He is progressing, unfortunately, he still has some discomfort in his back,” the Spaniard said.
“We are trying to manage him in the best possible way. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be fit for this game, and we’re trying, and he’s trying to do everything to feel better and get back training. But not yet.”
Despite concerns that the back injury might keep Saliba out for the remainder of the season, Arteta remains optimistic about his return.
“Back injuries are a bit tricky and how they evolve with the load that you put in certain areas,” the Gunners manager added.
“He’s very positive, and the medical staff are positive about it. Let’s push it every day and see how he copes with that and how the pain develops as well. He’s so willing to be back in the team.”
When questioned about the origin of Saliba’s injury, Arteta admitted it was unclear whether it occurred during the previous game or was pre-existing.
“We don’t know if it happened the previous game as he had a very awkward landing against Fulham, but before that, he was fine,” Arteta explained.
“Maybe it’s more for the doctors to answer, but it is more specifically about the load we put on that area and how he can cope with that. What kind of pain he can endure is something that we’ll have to monitor closely.”
So what are the club doing to try and get him fit?
“Hopefully that we get the right load for him, the right amount of rest that he needs while we’re keeping him active,” Arteta said.
“And the pain starts to go away and we are more comfortable with the images we have of him that we can start to take him to the pitch and do certain activities with him. That’s it.
“I want to be positive, I think that he will be able to do that. But I don’t know, I don’t have the answer today to answer 100% what it is that is going to be the case.”
As Arsenal push for their first Premier League title since the 2003/04 season, they eagerly await Saliba’s return to bolster their defensive options.