Mikel Arteta has insisted Arsenal’s clash with Manchester City won’t define their season, with William Saliba set to miss out.
- Arsenal have drawn three league games in a row
- Saliba has missed the last five matches
- Fabio Vieira replaced ill Xhaka against Southampton
WHAT HAPPENED? The Gunners go into the crunch game at the Etihad Stadium sitting five points clear of City at the top of the table, but Pep Guardiola’s side have two games in hand.
Three successive draws have seen Arsenal’s advantage over the champions slip away, adding even more importance to a game many are describing as the title decider.
WHAT THEY SAID: But, speaking at his pre-match press conference, Arteta brushed off talk of the match being do or die for his team. “We knew from the beginning that City would be the team to beat, probably with Liverpool because of what these teams have done in the last five or six years,” Arsenal’s manager said.
“We wanted to close that gap as much as we possibly could and we are toe to toe with them. We know we have to go to the Etihad, we know that after that we have five very difficult games. So that game is going to be really important. Is it going to define our season? The answer is no.
“If we win, we haven’t won the league, that’s for sure. It will shift a little bit the percentage, but five games in this league with the games we both still have to play, very tricky still.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Arteta confirmed that Arsenal will once again be without centre-back William Saliba for the game due to his ongoing back issue, while Granit Xhaka is a doubt due to the illness that saw him miss the 3-3 draw with Southampton.
“There’s not been a real improvement unfortunately on him [Saliba],” said the Spaniard. “So we are still waiting. We are still hopeful, but It’s another week that’s gone by and he hasn’t been able to train. We are preparing for this game without him and the next game probably is going to be too close as well. We have to go week by week at the moment.
“Granit has been out, hopefully he will be able to train today. He’s still a doubt.”
IN THREE PHOTOS:
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WHAT NEXT? Arsenal travel to Manchester City on Wednesday night looking to move eight points clear at the top of the Premier League.
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