Arteta ‘hopeful’ Saliba will be back before end of the Premier League season

William Saliba will not be involved against Leeds United tomorrow, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has confirmed.

Saliba suffered a back injury in Arsenal’s Europa League exit to Sporting Lisbon, missing the win over Crystal Palace and then withdrawing from the France squad to face the Netherlands and Ireland over the international break.

And Arteta says the defender is still not fit enough to make his return.

“Unfortunately he still has some discomfort in his back,” Arteta explained.

“We are trying to manage it in the best possible way. Unfortunately he’s not going to be fit for this game.

“We are trying and he’s trying to do everything he can to feel better and get back training, but not yet.”

Some reports have suggested Saliba could be out until near the end of the season, but Arteta eased those concerns, adding: “I am very hopeful and he is as well.

“Back injuries are a bit tricky, with the load you put in certain areas, but he’s very positive about it, the medical staff are positive about it.

“Let’s push it every day a little bit and see how he can cope with that and how the pain develops as well, but obviously he’s so willing to be back with the team.”

Thomas Partey is likely to play, however, having been an unused substitute for Ghana’s African Cup of Nations qualifier against Angola on Monday due to struggling with a “small injury”, according to Ghana boss Chris Hughton.

“Thomas has some small issues, a small injury issue and we felt it was too big of a risk to start him,” Hughton said.

And Arteta said: “We have a really good relationship with the Ghanaian federation and we have to manage and look after our players.

“They’ve been really positive about it as well and we tried to help as much as possible. I think it works both ways.

“Obviously he wasn’t fit enough to play the second game but hopefully he’s going to be back for the weekend.”

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