Mikel Arteta was not able to commit to whether or not Kieran Tierney will be able to play for Arsenal again this season after the defender suffered ligament damage.
The Scotland full-back limped off before half-time of their loss to Liverpool at the weekend. The club announced on Wednesday that he may be sidelined for up to six weeks. But speaking ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final first-leg tie at home to Slavia Prague, Arteta would not be drawn on when he believes Tierney will return.
“We have to make sure first that he doesn’t need any surgery, which it doesn’t look like,” he said.
“The timeframe will be that. It could have been worse because the action looks quite scary, but he looks a bit better and the damage was not that bad, so at the end of the day it is not the bad news we could have been waiting for.
“We are going to have to go day by day and see how Kieran is feeling, then when he gets close to playing time and how he is feeling we will make that decision.”
Scotland will also be anxious to find out the extent of Tierney’s absence. They will want him available for Euro 2020 in the summer, but Arteta similarly does not know yet if he will make it.
“It will depend how things evolve again in the next few weeks,” Arteta added.
Arsenal will now have to find a way to cover for Tierney in his absence. They failed to sign a backup when allowing Sead Kolasinac to leave in January.
Arteta claims there was nothing they could do, though.
“We could not do anything on that window,” he said. “We decided to let Kolasinac out on loan as well and it’s a decision that we made.”
One of Arteta’s options may be to play Bukayo Saka at left-back. The England international is capable of playing there, but offers more in an attacking role.
Arteta knows he will need to weigh up the balance carefully if he does drop Saka into a deeper role.
“That’s the reality you have to change something you have to find a different way of attacking,” he said. “The transition has to be stable and be done by players who are good at that.”
Arteta preparing for Europa League
Arsenal’s first game since Tierney’s injury will put them up against Slavia Prague in the Europa League on Thursday.
Ahead of the first leg of their quarter-final tie, Arteta answered questions of whether the Europa League was their best route back into the Champions League.
“Till it’s mathematically possible you have to fight,” he said despite their comparatively low position in the Premier League. “We have to be realistic in the league and it’s difficult.”
Slavia Prague have already knocked out two British sides out of Europe this season. They defeated Leicester City and Rangers in the last two rounds.
Hence, Arteta knows they will provide a tough challenge.
“They are a really strong side,” the Gunners boss said. “They’ve been unbeaten in the league.
“They’ve always been in the game. Really difficult, brave, exciting. Top attitude all the time.”