Saka’s World Cup Hope Hangs


Arsenal hope to have a clearer picture of Bukayo Saka’s fitness by the middle of the week after he suffered a World Cup injury scare on Sunday.

The winger limped off during the first half of Arsenal’s 5-0 win against Nottingham Forest after he was on the receiving of some heavy challenges at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said Saka suffered injuries to both his foot and ankle. The 21-year-old was due to report Arsenal’s London Colney training ground today to be assessed by the club.

Saka is expected to be a key part of the England squad in Qatar and, with just 21 days until the start of the World Cup, his fitness will be a concern for Gareth Southgate.

Asked if Saka’s World Cup might be in doubt, Arteta said: “Hopefully not. It was a bad kick. Right from the beginning, he was limping, but I don’t see any further than that.”

Saka did not appear to be in much discomfort as he left Emirates Stadium yesterday. He looked to be walking freely and he visited the players’ lounge, before heading home.

But Southgate will be nervously waiting to learn the outcome of any diagnosis. Southgate is due to name his final 26-man World Cup squad on November 10 before the England squad fly out to Qatar in two weeks’ time, ahead of their first match against Iran on November 21.

Arsenal face Zurich at home on Thursday but is unlikely Saka would be risked in that game anyway, with Arsenal only needing to match PSV’s result to top their Europa League group.

Arteta was optimistic yesterday that Saka had not suffered any serious damage and eased fears he could miss the World Cup.

Saka was injured in the opening minutes of yesterday’s win over Forest when he was on the receiving end of a heavy challenge and he was then caught by another forceful tackle.

He initially carried on, with Arsenal’s head of medical services Gary O’Driscoll watching his movements from the technical area.

But Saka was struggling to run freely and O’Driscoll and Arteta could be seen in discussion, before the latter motioned for the player to go down and then come off.

Saka went straight down the tunnel for treatment and did not take his place on the bench.

His replacement Reiss Nelson was the star of the show as Arsenal thrashed Forest to move back above Manchester City to the top of the Premier League.

Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring in the fourth minute before Nelson struck twice after the break with his first Premier League goals since July 2020.

Thomas Partey fired home a fourth goal after being teed up by Nelson and Martin Odegaard completed the scoring late on.

Nelson said: “It was amazing – like I was playing FIFA a bit. I have been waiting patiently. I have been on loan, and sometimes you feel like it is not going to come. I have just been patient and ready for that, ready for the opportunity to come.”