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Arsenal Injury Update: Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice

Uh-oh! Bad news!

Arsenal FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Bukayo Saka may miss Arsenal’s upcoming trip to Bournemouth in the Premier League due to injury. According to Mikel Arteta, the winger hasn’t trained since being substituted off late in the North London Derby, limping heavily seemingly from a foul that saw Destiny Udogie fall on his leg.

The bad news about Saka’s injury comes a day after Arsenal got encouraging updates on Declan Rice, Gabriel Martinelli, Leandro Trossard, and Thomas Partey. But Mikel Arteta threw a bit of cold water on the positive update on Declan Rice. In his press conference ahead of the Carabao Cup tie with Brentford, Arteta confirmed that Rice would be unavailable for the midweek match but that the club doesn’t think the back issue is a significant one. Rice is “still uncomfortable” and “doubtful” for the weekend, but Arteta refused to rule him out.

Both left wings, Martinelli and Trossard, should be back soon and in time for the critical match against Manchester City on October 8th. Thomas Partey is progressing well in his recovery from a groin injury and may make an ahead-of-schedule return against City.

Bukayo Saka’s knock puts his 86-match appearance streak in the Premier League in serious jeopardy. But some time off might not be the worst thing for the Arsenal star. Saka has reportedly been managing an Achilles problem since last season, although Mikel Arteta has consistently downplayed the significance of whatever the issue is and it hasn’t limited Saka’s ability to train or play.

Regardless, Saka plays a lot. Generally, as players get fatigued and the minutes pile up, they’re at increased risk for fatigue-related injuries, often soft tissue (muscle) problems. Some players need more rest than others to keep them out of the proverbial “red zone” for injury. Some are physical freaks need significantly less rest, comparatively.

The club and the training staff undoubtedly have extremely detailed and specific information on Bukayo Saka’s physiology, fitness levels, recovery ability, and so on. All of that information, data, training staff input, and medical evaluation goes into his load management.

We don’t have any of that information, so it’s somewhat of a fool’s errand for us to judge whether or not he’s playing too much. It certainly feels like he is. Most of us would like to see him get more rest. But does he need it? Only the Arsenal medical staff really know the answer to that.

As for this particular injury, if it was indeed picked up when Destiny Udogie fell on his leg, it was what I’ll call a contact injury. That’s opposed to a fatigue injury. I’m not buying the people saying “see, he’s playing to much and now he’s gotten hurt as a result” for a second. The last I checked, having an opposing player fall on your leg and twist your foot awkwardly was not one of the risks inherent to playing a bunch of minutes. Someone can fall on you whether it’s your 1st minute on the pitch or your 91st minute.

Contact injuries happen. They’re a part of the game. Yes, the more minutes you play, the more time there is for opposing players to foul and injure you. But the only time you take star players off the pitch to avoid them getting hurt like that is when you’ve got a match under control. That wasn’t the position Arsenal, Mikel Arteta, and Bukayo Saka were in against Tottenham.

It may be true that Bukayo Saka needs to play fewer minutes. But to connect this particular injury with a lack of appropriate rest is wrong. Hopefully it’s nothing serious and he’s back soon. It doesn’t seem as if Mikel Arteta is particularly concerned about it, so fingers crossed.