'Thank God we did!' - Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta explains why he took Gabriel Jesus off at half-time & provides William Saliba & Takehiro Tomiyasu injury update
- Arsenal eliminated after defeat on penalties
- Jesus hooked early to manage substitutions
- Arteta admits Tomiyasu injury could be serious
WHAT HAPPENED? The Brazilian forward started his first game for the Gunners since picking up a knee injury at the World Cup that had seen him sidelined for over four months. But Jesus came off at half-time and was Arsenal's third substitution of Thursday's Europa League clash with Sporting after Tomiyasu and Saliba were injured early on, leading to some fears his return to action had been rushed.
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WHAT THEY SAID: However, Arteta revealed after the match that this move was only a precaution, explaining to reporters: "We decided to do that because we had to manage the subs. Thank God we did take him out, especially after the two windows that we had to use in the first half. That was the plan. Leo [Trossard] is coming from an injury as well and we knew the game could go to extra time and we had to manage that. He looked OK."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: The news wasn't so good for Arteta's defensive fatalities. Tomiyasu was taken off after just eight minutes after he overstretched in a lunge to stop a dangerous Sporting attack, while Saliba had to be withdrawn shortly after Granit Xhaka's opener having suffered no apparent collision.
The Gunners boss didn't appear hopeful about an immediate return, adding: "Tomiyasu looks pretty serious from his reaction straight and what he said to me, but obviously, it’s very early. Willy [Saliba], I don’t know, he had some discomfort and could not continue so we had to take him out."
IN THREE PHOTOS:
DID YOU KNOW? Thursday's penalty shootout - in which Gabriel Martinelli agonisingly missed the decisive spot-kick - was Arsenal's 23rd in all competitions (won 14 and lost nine) and just their second at home, after a 9-8 shootout win against Rotherham at Highbury in the League Cup back in October 2003.
WHAT NEXT FOR ARSENAL? The Gunners' wait for European glory goes on after a 5-3 shoot-out loss following a 3-3 aggregate scoreline. Their elimination will allow Arteta's side to focus on their Premier League exploits, though, with Arsenal still five points clear and playing host to Crystal Palace in their next match on Sunday, who will be without former Gunner Patrick Vieira at the helm after he was sacked on Friday.