It’s press conference day today and Mikel Arteta will take to the press room at London Colney to give an update on where we are at with our injury problems ahead of the big game against Oil-Funded-Nation-State FC on Sunday, with all eyes and ears being very firmly fixed on the availability of Bukayo Saka for the game. It didn’t look good on Tuesday, Arteta was unsure about his availability straight after the match on the night, but the fact that England have named him in their squad for next weekend’s set of games suggests that it can’t be as bad as had first been feared.

England and their medical team must have conversations with all clubs about players when they are about to announce their squads, which they do a good eight or nine days before any match takes place (probably because flights and accommodation details need to be sorted out by agents, etc), so that conversation must have had some confirmation that Saka will be fit and available for next weekend. If the club were telling the England camp that it’s a hamstring strain and he’ll probably be out for a while, then he just wouldn’t have been named and we’d all be a lot more worried about him longer term. So if you’re going to look at the glass half full you can say that even if he doesn’t play this weekend, hopefully he will be fine for after the international break.

Of course knowing our luck we’ll lose him this weekend in an important match, he’ll go away with England and pick up a knock, then we’ll lose him when he returns to The Arsenal in broken pieces because he played 90 minutes in a meaningless friendly against Australia.

But as it stands, with no new information until Arteta does that press conference, we have to look at the intel we have and say at least it isn’t a long term injury. Remember when the Ghana FA didn’t name Partey in their squad for the last international break, then let it slip that he’d suffered an injury himself and would be out, before Arsenal had even said anything? Well I suspect that would be the case with England had they not already spoken to the club.

That doesn’t mean he’ll be fine for Sunday though and it may be a case of the muscular injury he had when backheeling the ball in the first half just hasn’t repaired itself just yet. Saka may only be 22, but even at such a young age and when the body can repair itself so quickly, it might be asking a lot for him to be ready for Sunday. I’ve just had a cheeky Google about hamstring strains or tears and the NHS website has this to say. A ‘few days’ for a muscle pull or strain would give us hope, but this is guidance based on the average person, not an elite athlete. Saka could right now of this moment be ok to walk around, maybe even go for light jogging, but that doesn’t mean he could be available for intermittent sprinting, turning, etc. In elite sport you also need to be mindful of those marginal gains. A 75% fit Bukayo Saka is very different from even a 90% Bukayo Saka and as fans because we watch football so closely, we are all attuned enough to be able to see when a player isn’t quite right. It just doesn’t look the same. I remember seeing Aaron Ramsey often tke a few games after injury before we’d get the player that we all knew and loved banging in goes and delivering those lung-busting runs. But before we got him at his best you’d normally have to go through half a dozen games in which his performances were a bit ‘meh’.

Against the best team in the world, the treble winners, a side with six wins out of seven in the league this season already, you can’t afford to have players who are not 100% on it. So there will be a lot of deliberation and discussion happening right up until the morning of the game from Arteta and his coaching staff on what to do re: Saka I suspect. Unless he’s just clearly not fit, then it becomes about who can replace him.

And that in itself is a challenge, because as we all know, there isn’t really a natural understudy to Saka. Fabio Vieira feels like he is better as a centrally located player. Emile Smith Rowe hasn’t played there much at all and in any case, it doesn’t feel as though Arteta has him as his next in line. Reiss Nelson has once (that I can remember) deputised for Saka in recent months when he came on against Forest and bagged two goals at home last season. Trossard played wide right when we beat Leeds 4-1 at the Emirates towards the end of last season, but I can’t remember him having a blinder of a game and in any case, I suspect he will take up that wide left position instead of the seemingly injured Martinelli. Gabriel Jesus has operated there but against it is taking a player out of his best position and it means Eddie getting the nod centrally, and recently I don’t think he’s performed particularly well in those big games against tough opponents.

So it is a real worry if we’re missing Saka as well as Martinelli on Sunday. A real worry indeed.

There’s not really a lot going on in the Arsenal world right now. From the Arsenal Women perspective there was the show of faith in Jans Eidevall in his new contract being given to him by the club, which feels very familiar to when Mikel was given a public backing when we went through the tough period during the COVID era. But it was only May last year that Eidevall signed a new deal, so this feels like a very public statement by the club, because we’re only 16 months since his last deal. I don’t really know enough about women’s football to know whether or not this is a good idea or not, but clearly the club are backing their man and now he needs his team to deliver on the football pitch.

Right, that’s me done for the day I think, so I’ll catch you all tomorrow when we’ve heard from Mikel.

have a good one.