Premier League • England

Bukayo Saka injury shows Arsenal’s need to strengthen squad with Pedro Neto linked

Bukayo Saka of Arsenal

Bukayo Saka of Arsenal

Bukayo Saka is set to miss Arsenal’s Premier League showdown with Manchester City having picked up an injury midweek in the Champions League. 

I don’t blame Mikel Arteta for playing Bukayo Saka on Tuesday night. It’s the Champions League, Arsenal are away from home, the second game in the group stage, and are nowhere near qualified. I don’t see how you rest Bukayo Saka for that game.

He could have easily rested him against Bournemouth. That was an error. Given he went into that game on the back of an injury against Tottenham, if he was going to rest him for any games this week, it should have been the Bournemouth game. Or, as soon as Havertz made it 3-0, he should have taken him off. Why he stayed on until 75 minutes – and picked up that other injury – I don’t know.

When I look at how Arteta manages Saka and his minutes, those are the opportunities he misses and makes mistakes on. There have been so many times when he could have brought Saka off when a game was done, looking back at last season as well.

They’ve waited a long time to get back into the Champions League, I don’t think they can pick and choose who they play in any match. That was always going to be a difficult game in France. You need Saka playing in that game. So as long as he was fit, then I don’t have a problem with it.

Arsenal insisted he was fit after the Bournemouth game. Yes, he got that knock but was fine to start, he was training the whole week, and he was passed completely injury free to play that game. I just think there’s other opportunities that Arteta misses to give him the rest that he needs and to change it around and to rotate the squad a bit.

Arsenal have got a big game coming up in a few days and they are not going to give anything away at the moment. It’s a hamstring problem but we don’t know the extent of it. That was the word coming out of France immediately after the game. Those issues don’t tend to clear up in a couple of days.

It’s not like the Bournemouth game or the Tottenham game; those were impact injuries. As painful as they are for a couple of days, they calm down and you can play through them. But you can’t really play through a hamstring problem.

Especially Saka, he relies on pace, acceleration and that explosiveness. It’s the same with Gabriel Martinelli. He did his hamstring against Everton and we haven’t seen him since. You just can’t rush players back through something like that. If it is a hamstring issue, I don’t see how he plays at the weekend and I don’t think he should play.

He’s got this amazing durability and these remarkable recovery powers; he seems to bounce back from so many injuries to be available in the next game. But I just think even though it’s Man City, and it’s so big, if it is a hamstring issue, they cannot take any risks and play him on Sunday.

You could risk a two-week absence turning into a six-week absence or an eight-week absence. And you can’t take that risk, no matter how big the game is on Sunday.

Pedro Neto links

Right wing was clearly an area which they should have improved a long time ago. But it is difficult. What right winger is going to sign for Arsenal? They just know if Saka’s fit, and he’s normally always fit, they’re just not going to play many games.

And so it is difficult to bring in a top quality player on that side. But they need to find a way of doing it because, looking at this weekend, they might have to move Gabriel Jesus to the right or potentially play Reiss Nelson over there, even though he much prefers playing on the left.

So it’s not ideal. The fact they are looking at Pedro Neto, who they tried to sign before it was knocked backed by Wolves, suggests they know they need to improve that area of the squad. They’ve carefully built this squad but there’s still a couple of big gaping holes in it when it comes to cover and quality. Real high quality cover and competition for Saka is one area in the summer that they’re really going to try and sort out.

The interest in Pedro Neto was there a couple of years ago. Wolves weren’t willing to play ball at that time. Then he got his injury, he was out and his form dipped a lot. But he’s looking back to his best season and Arsenal will very much be aware of that. They’re still going to keep monitoring him even though they didn’t manage to sign him when they tried.

He’s the type of player that Arsenal like, the age range fits the bill exactly. If he continues playing the way he is right now, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Arsenal test the waters for him again, probably not in January but certainly come summer.

His contract expires in 2027, I can’t imagine £50million would even remotely tempt Wolves into doing business with someone like Pedro Neto, at his age, with his quality and especially if he continues to play like this throughout the season. The going rate in the Premier League now for these types of players, 23 years old you probably want to be getting close to to double that.

We’ve seen that Arsenal aren’t afraid of spending big now and that they’ve got the capability of doing that. So I wouldn’t necessarily think it’s a price tag that would put Arsenal off if they do step out there and reignite their interest in him.