Unfortunate Arsenal prove Erik ten Hag's fitness comments were nonsense with another series of injury scares
- Ten Hag discussed Arsenal squad fitness
- Suggested Gunners had been lucky with injuries
- But Europa League second leg again proves otherwise
WHAT HAPPENED? Manchester United boss Ten Hag was keen to air his frustrations about constantly having to make do with a limited squad this season, comparing his side to Arsenal and insinuating that the Gunners had been fortunate to have a fully fit squad for most of the season. His comments came despite the north London club actually experiencing many injuries since the start of the term, including to Gabriel Jesus and Emile Smith Rowe.
And as Arsenal hosted Sporting CP in the Europa League last-16 second leg on Thursday, Mikel Arteta was forced into two injury substitutions inside the first half, losing two key defenders in Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba, before withdrawing Gabriel Jesus at half-time following a three-month lay-off due to a knee injury.
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WHAT THEY SAID: Ten Hag made his point in United's press conference before their away win over Real Betis: “It's about the players who are available and every time there's a team on the pitch who deals with it. In just one game we had the squad available totally and I was able to pick my team, from a tactical approach, perfectly - that was against Manchester City at home this season. Every other time it's been one player suspended, injured, or unavailable through illness."
He then added, looking towards their rivals: "We have to deal with it well but Arsenal, all the time their squad is totally available.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: While the Dutchman's frustrations are understandable given that he has had to patch together his squad with loan signings in key areas in the form of Wout Weghorst and Marcel Sabitzer, and was without Casemiro when his side lost 3-2 at the Emirates, drawing Arsenal into the conversation seemed odd.
Jesus quickly established himself as the star man for the Gunners after signing from Manchester City last summer and required surgery to fix ligament damage sustained while at the World Cup. Mohamed Elneny and Eddie Nketiah are out of action due to injuries, while Oleksander Zinchenko missed the first chunk of the season with a calf problem. That is before considering the two injuries Arsenal picked up at home to Sporting on Thursday night.
IN THREE PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT FOR ARSENAL? Mikel Arteta will undoubtedly be quizzed about his three early substitutions after the game, with fans likely to get a better idea of the extent of Tomiyasu and Saliba's respective injuries in the coming days.