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Arsenal might have steamrollered Nottingham Forest to return to the summit of the Premier League on Sunday afternoon but one man that wouldn’t have enjoyed the game was England boss Gareth Southgate having seen Bukayo Saka pick up a knock; with the World Cup kick off just a matter of a few weeks away, the young star now faces a race against time to be fit for the tournament.
Bukayo Saka fitness latest
Saka was named in Mikel Arteta’s starting lineup for Arsenal’s match up with Nottingham Forest this weekend as was involved massively in the early exchanges. After just five minutes he set up the opening goal of the game as he teed up Gabriel Martinelli to head home, however, it was an incident that had happened four minutes earlier – in the first 60 seconds of the match – that was perhaps more noteworthy.
Saka was on the end of a tough tackle from Forest’s Atletico Madrid loanee Renan Lodi in the first minute of the game. Obviously, the Arsenal man dusted himself down to lay on his aforementioned assist but twice the Gunners’ physio team entered the field to provide treatment with Saka eventually being withdrawn shortly before the half hour mark.
The situation around Saka’s fitness soured even further as he chose to head straight back to the dressing rooms; it was a sight that has left most England fans fearing the worst with Saka largely seen as one of the Three Lions’ most promising players.
Will Saka make the England squad?
If we park the fitness concerns for a minute, Saka’s place on the plane to Qatar is absolutely nailed on. The 21-year-old endured a miserable end to England’s delayed Euro 2020 campaign missing a penalty in the Final loss to Italy, which then brought about a torrent of disgusting racial abuse. He showed phenomenal courage and mental strength to bounce back from that last season though and this season he’s been instrumental to Arsenal’s excellent opening to the league campaign having started every game whilst chipping in with four goals and five assists. In fact, he’s been so bright that there is a real chance Saka will be a starter in Qatar – if fit.
With that in mind, Arteta’s comments are all we have to base his injury status on right now. Immediately after the full time whistle, the word from the Arsenal gaffer was one of cautious optimism as he cited Saka would “hopefully not” miss the tournament. Unfortunately though, further fitness updates will tell us the true damage and that news isn’t expected for the next couple of days.
Regardless of whether or not Saka is deemed fit for the World Cup, there are obviously huge doubts as to whether or not he features for Arsenal again this side of the tournament. That then poses the question whether Southgate risks including someone that hasn’t proved their return to fitness in his squad. Given the enlarged squads allowed in Qatar, our gut tells us he probably would but, ultimately, the next few days will likely prove key to Saka’s prospects. An injury to Saka though could be good news for someone like Raheem Sterling whose stock is perhaps at a low point!