In pictures: Lens v Arsenal
Mikel Arteta admits to being ‘worried’ about Bukayo Saka ahead of Arsenal’s showdown with Manchester City this weekend. The winger was substituted in the first half of the Gunners’ 2-1 Champions League defeat to RC Lens, with Arteta suggesting that a fresh issue was to blame.
Saka was forced off against Bournemouth on Saturday, but Arteta opted to throw him straight back into the starting XI in France. The 22-year-old lasted just over half an hour before needing to be withdrawn, and the sight of him limping down the tunnel will have been particularly concerning for supporters ahead of City’s visit to the Emirates Stadium.
After the final whistle, Arteta confirmed that Saka was substituted due to a feeling of discomfort after attempting a backheel, suggesting that the issue is not one previously on the player’s radar.
“He felt something,” the Spaniard explained. “It was muscular. He was uncomfortable and we had to take him off. We don’t know anything more than that. It was big enough not to allow him to play the rest of the game and that is a worry for us.”
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Saka’s longevity sets him apart in the Arsenal squad, with his appearance against Bournemouth making it 87 in a row in the Premier League. It remains to be seen whether he recovers in time to line up against the Sky Blues, with Gabriel Martinelli also at risk of missing out.
Gabriel Jesus got Arsenal off to the perfect start against Lens, shifting onto his right foot and finding the far corner with poise and precision. But Adrien Thomasson kick-started a memorable comeback for the hosts, which was completed by the superb Elye Wahi in the second half.
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The Gunners are now second in Group B, one point behind Lens after two matches played. And Arteta was straight to the point in acknowledging that his side should have been more clinical with the chances they manufactured in the final third.
“We had a huge chance straight after the break with Leo [Trossard], and two or three other big chances,” said the Spaniard. “We didn’t have enough threat in the final third or attack certain spaces.
“We didn’t defend the box well enough today to win the game. Mistakes happen in football and they will continue to be there somehow. In the Champions League you don’t generate 10 clear-cut chances, you have to take them when you get there.”
Midfielder Declan Rice agreed, telling TNT Sports: “We missed some big chances after going one up. We created our own problems in the second half. We totally dominated the match and they’re not an easy opponent. They’re constantly pressing you and we had to be on it.
“We got out really well but it was the final bit that was lacking for us tonight. It’s good for us. We’ve lost but we can learn a lot from tonight and go again. We’re 10 games or so into the season, there’s another 50 or so to go. We’re just warming up and getting into our rhythm.”
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