It is being reported by French news outlet L’Equipe that Arsenal central defender William Saliba will be out injured for ‘several weeks’.
It was reported on Friday afternoon that Saliba is ‘not ruled out’ for Arsenal as they play Crystal Palace at home in the Premier League, after having to come off early in the first half of their 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium against Sporting in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night with a back injury.
Football.london have also since reported that Saliba is still in the squad to face the Eagles, although he is thought to be a ‘major doubt’.
L’Equipe reported on Saturday evening that Saliba now faces ‘several weeks’ out with injury, and will subsequently miss both games for France against the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland coming up in the next international break.
This would also imply that he is ruled out for the match against Palace, contrary to reports that he could still feature.
It is certainly a big blow for Mikel Arteta and his team to lose Saliba for this afternoon’s clash, as the Gunners aim to get another three points on the board in the Premier League, and give them an eight-point cushion over title challengers Manchester City going into the international break.
The France international has been such a key player in Arsenal’s Premier League title charge this term, with only his centre-half partner Gabriel in the squad winning more aerial duels than him per game, while he also averages more passes per match than any of his team-mates, and has played in every fixture so far under Arteta (WhoScored).
It will now be interesting to see who the Spaniard partners up with Gabriel at centre-back in the absence of Saliba, with Rob Holding the likeliest candidate after he came on for the 21-year-old against Sporting on Thursday night.
Arteta could also call upon January signing Jakub Kiwior, although it is unclear whether he would be willing to play two left-footed central defenders together with Gabriel making up the partnership.
Nonetheless, disrupting Saliba and Gabriel’s partnership is a huge blow heading into the clash, and will certainly give Palace supporters more encouragement, as they look for an immediate reaction following the dismissal of their manager and Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira earlier on in the week.