Mikel Arteta insists he feels ‘really bad’ for leaving William Saliba out of Arsenal’s Europa League squad with club facing centre-back crisis following David Luiz’s injury and Pablo Mari’s setback
- Mikel Arteta only has Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel Magalhaes fit for Dundalk
- Brazilian David Luiz suffered an injury in the defeat by Leicester at the weekend
- He therefore joined Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari in being out
- And Arteta suggested he may now regret omitting William Saliba from the squad
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has suggested he regrets leaving William Saliba out of his 25-man Europa League squad.
The Spanish manager only has Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel Magalhaes as fit and available centre-backs ahead of the fixture against Dundalk, with David Luiz joining Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari on the sidelines in the weekend’s defeat to Leicester.
Fellow central defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Saliba are fit but neither can be called upon after being excluded from Arsenal’s European squad, and in the case of the latter Arteta admits he is an option he would like to have had available.
Mikel Arteta has suggested he regrets leaving William Saliba out his Europa League squad
The Arsenal manager only has two of the eight centre-backs available against Dundalk
Shkodran Mustafi (left) and Gabriel Magalhaes (right) are the only fit central defenders
‘I feel really bad for William Saliba,’ Arteta said. ‘Because we had so many central defenders, we decided to leave him out of the squad which was really hurtful for me to do.
‘I was hoping that Pablo would be back in two weeks but he had a setback and then we don’t have Pablo and we don’t have William when he’s fit and available to play.
‘But when you make those decisions, you can’t always think about every possible outcome.’
Saliba, 19, has yet to make his Arsenal debut after returning to the club this summer from his loan at Saint-Etienne.
It comes after David Luiz joined Arsenal’s growing injury list in the defeat by Leicester
The experienced Brazilian joined Calum Chambers (right) and Rob Holding (left) in being out
He joined Arsenal from the Ligue 1 side in 2019 for a reported £27million before spending last season on loan in France, but despite much fan excitement has had to bide his time while being assessed by Arteta and getting accustomed to England.
But Arteta added he is already seeing improvement from the France U20 international.
‘Yes, he’s in a much better place,’ Arteta added
‘He’s feeling a lot more confident around the place, his language is improving and he’s starting to understand much better what we’re doing physically.
January signing Pablo Mari is in the Europa League squad but has suffered a setback
Saliba, 19, is fit but was left out of the European squad after a tough start to life in England
‘He’s played a few games with the under-23s which he needed because he didn’t play any football in the last seven or eight months. Things are progressively getting better and better.’
Arteta had planned to loan him out to the Championship this season after the coronavirus and injuries robbed him of a year of adaptation, but they were eventually shelved after an international deadline day move back to St Etienne was not completed in time.
Mesut Ozil meanwhile was the other headline omission from the Europa League squad alongside Sokratis and Saliba.
The 32-year-old was also left out of the Gunners’ Premier League squad for the season, a move which has caused further friction between the World Cup winner and the club.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos is also unavailable to Arteta after he was omitted from the squad
Mesut Ozil (left) grabbed the headlines for his omission which saw Saliba also left out