Arteta delivers return timescale after Arsenal attacker undergoes surgery; makes mockery of Saliba question

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta gave a grim update on the return timescale of Emile Smith Rowe, and delivered an emphatic response to a question about William Saliba and playing against Tottenham.

Arsenal confirmed Emile Smith Rowe had undergone surgery to repair a persistent groin issue on Thursday. The 22-year-old had only featured in four cameo appearances this season with the groin problem limiting both his time on the pitch and ability to train.

An Arsenal statement read: “Following a significant setback at our Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford on September 4, and after further specialist consultations and discussions with our medical team, Emile underwent surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his groin.”

Ahead of Arsenal’s north London derby with Tottenham on Saturday, Arteta was asked for an update on Smith Rowe’s surgery and return timeframe in his Friday press conference.

Arteta insisted the decision to go under the knife was the player’s as much as the club’s. With the issue lingering, Smith Rowe wanted to draw a line under the injury once and for all.

“We had to make a decision and we could not continue with that uncertainty,” said Arteta.

“The player was the first one demanding that he wanted an end decision and then we have to support him on that.”

Return timescale suggested

Regarding when he’s likely to return to action, Arteta stressed it won’t be before the World Cup.

The Qatar tournament takes place between November 20 – December 18. As such, Smith Rowe won’t be in contention to feature for the Gunners again until their Boxing Day clash with West Ham at the earliest.

“After a surgery it’s very difficult to give a timeline [on when he’ll be fit to feature again],” continued Arteta. “We need to go step by step.

“We know before the World Cup he’s not going to be involved.”

Attention quickly turned to the derby clash with Spurs at 12:30pm on Saturday.

Both clubs are flying high this season and with Man City playing Man Utd on Sunday, a win on Saturday could see either side surge clear of the title favourites.

On the subject of team news, Arteta suggested certain integral players are in selection contention.

“We just finished the last training session,” said Arteta. “We had many players arriving yesterday we had a short period to prepare the match but the boys look in good condition.”

When quizzed about the potential involvement of left-backs Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kieran Tierney, as well as Thomas Partey, Arteta said: “They are part of the team.”

Saliba question dismissed

Finally, Arteta was curiously quizzed about whether he has any doubts about throwing William Saliba head-first into his first north London derby.

Saliba is only 21 and the derbies are feisty affairs. However, the classy Frenchman has looked a cut above most centre-halves in the league so far this season.

Insisting he has no doubts and telegraphing that he’ll most likely start once again, Arteta concluded: “No this is football and Willy has shown what he’s capable of in the past few months.

“I have no doubts on him.”