Arsenal have seen a large number of their first-team squad head off for international duty. Sixteen players in total have left London Colney but Mikel Arteta will be sweating over the fitness of two stars in particular ahead of the return to Premier League action at Everton on September 17.
Gabriel Jesus was a late call-up to the Brazil squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Peru. The striker has replaced Manchester United star Antony for Selecao.
Jesus has only recently returned to full fitness following minor knee surgery. He went under the knife in early August to treat discomfort in the same knee that saw him miss three months of action last season.
He hasn’t played for his country since suffering the ligament injury during the World Cup in Qatar last December. Arteta will be hoping he can get through the next two matches without any issues.
Jesus scored his first goal of the season in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Manchester United. His fitness will be key to Arsenal’s chances of success this season.
The same can be said for William Saliba. The centre-back also hasn’t played for France since his one appearance at the World Cup.
A back injury forced him out of the internationals in March and June. Saliba has started the season strongly with Arsenal and looks back to his physical best.
He looks set to be thrown straight in for the Euro 2024 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland today (Thursday). French outlet L’Equipe claims Saliba will partner Dayot Upamecano at the back, with Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konate missing due to injury.
Saliba is as equally important to Arsenal as Jesus, if not more. His absence for the final two months of last season coincided with the Gunners’ dramatic drop in form in the Premier League title race.
Arteta has no like-for-like replacement if Saliba does get injured. Jurrien Timber is set to miss most of the season with an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury, while Thomas Partey is out until October at least with a groin problem.
Partey started the season at right-back, which freed up Ben White to play more centrally. However, a lack of options means Arsenal most likely need Saliba to play every Premier League and Champions League match for the foreseeable future.
Arteta will, of course, hope none of his players return from international duty with injury. But there may be increased fears over Jesus and Saliba in particular due to their recent fitness records.