Arsenal fans are once again worrying about the fitness of Bukayo Saka after he limped off injured in their 2-1 defeat against Lens.
The Gunners went to France hoping to continue their winning start to their Champions League return, having beaten PSV in their group opener. But for some, one eye will have been on the upcoming Premier League fixture: Manchester City travelling to the Emirates on Sunday.
On history and club stature, some expected this to be an easy ride for Arsenal. All the more so given Lens are currently 15th in Ligue 1. As a result, there were calls for a slightly rotated XI, which included giving Saka a break to ensure he was fresh for Man City.
Bet UK Welcome offer: Bet £10, Get £30 in Free Bets
You can get £30 in Free Bets when you bet £10 with Bet UK by CLICKING HERE or on the image below.
T&Cs apply. New customers, Deposit & Place a Bet within 7 days, and settle a £10 minimum bet at odds of 4/5 (1.8) or greater, to be credited with 3x £10 free bets: 1 x £10 Horse racing, 1 x £10 Free Bet Builder and 1 x £10 Football. Stake not returned. Opt-in required. 18+ BeGambleAware.org.
Saka has had a tough time of late with regards to injuries, limping off the pitch in each of his past two appearances. At the weekend, Saka started against Bournemouth despite having missed training in midweek following a knock in the North London Derby draw with Tottenham.
But Saka didn’t make it all the way through the win over Bournemouth, coming off with 14 minutes left to play. A doubt once again for the trip to Lens, Saka started and was involved in Arsenal taking the lead.
The England forward capitalised on a poor pass out the back from Lens to play through Gabriel Jesus, who finished coolly. It was the Brazilian’s 16th direct goal involvement in his last 16 Champions League starts, scoring 13 with three assists. He has also scored in four consecutive group stage games in the competition, his longest such run.
For Saka, it was a fifth assist across all competitions, to go with his five goals. He’s the first player in Europe’s big five leagues to score 5+ goals and register 5+ assists across all competitions.
But Arsenal’s lead lasted just 11 minutes with Adrien Thomasson equalising through an excellent curling effort around David Raya, who had put his team in trouble with a poor clearance. It was the first goal the Gunners had conceded away from home this season in what was their fifth game.
And then came the moment Arsenal fans were fearing. In the 34th minute, Saka was seen limping and gesturing to Mikel Arteta that he had a problem, pointing to his hamstring.
Bukayo Saka had to come off injured against Lens…
Arsenal face Man City on Sunday ? pic.twitter.com/pgbyqAsYme
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) October 3, 2023
We have lost Bukayo Saka to injury. We all saw it coming. Quick recovery Bukayo.
— WelBeast (@WelBeast) October 3, 2023
Our medical team everytime deciding that saka can play another 90 mins pic.twitter.com/EMYkIx1Ejj
— ranaa (@afcrana) October 3, 2023
Well done boys, good process https://t.co/vDpszAyqU2
— Tim Stillman (@Stillmanator) October 3, 2023
Napoleon didn’t run Boxer in Animal Farm into the ground as relentlessly as Arteta has done with Saka. https://t.co/xUatVVWGFg
— Chris McCann (@canntoya) October 3, 2023
He was one player who should've absolutely got rest. Arteta always uses him like a bar of SOAP. Reiss or Eddie are right THERE! https://t.co/rbtKfI2KJ2
— d ⎊ (@awfcdreamer) October 3, 2023
— Carlon Carpenter (@CarlonCarpenter) October 3, 2023
We’re now bordering on negligence with this kid. He’s been playing injured for weeks and gets no rest from arsenal or England https://t.co/9ibLFhQLdg
— Joe T (@JoeyTidd92) October 3, 2023
This is how Mikel expects Saka to play against City on the weekend ?pic.twitter.com/gnP69n8tEM
— Dave (@DammitArsenal) October 3, 2023
Fabio Vieira came on for Saka, but Arsenal struggled to keep any control of the game, as Lens grew in confidence following their goal. Much the better side, Lens went ahead in the 69th minute through star signing Elye Wahi, who had been pretty quiet aside from setting up the opening goal.
It was a well-worked move from Lens and a lovely first-time finish on the bounce from Wahi, past Raya, for just his second goal since joining from Montpellier in the summer — having also found the net against Strasbourg at the weekend.
It’s time to celebrate for Lens, who held on to take the three points; but Arsenal fans will now wait with bated breath to hear the latest update on Saka’s fitness.
“It was an action, it was a backheel and he felt something on that specific action, it was nothing else and obviously he wasn’t comfortable to continue,” Mikel Arteta said after the game, confirming he doesn’t know the extent just yet.
However, according to Norwegian journalist Arilas Ould-Saada, the injury “doesn’t look good”.
Just spoke to Mikel Arteta on Bukayo Saka’s injury: “It doesn’t look good.”
— Arilas Ould-Saada (@arilasos) October 3, 2023