William Saliba has lost his battle to return to fitness before the end of the season while Arsenal will also be without for the run-in, according to reports.
The title-chasing Gunners have been forced to get by without Saliba since the middle of March when the Frenchman picked up a back injury against Sporting Lisbon in the .
Mikel Arteta never closed the door on the possibility of the French defender returning before the end of the season, though he has missed the last eight matches.
Arsenal’s defensive record has suffered as a result, with the team failing to keep a clean sheet in seven of those games – mustering their first shut-out in nearly two months in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Newcastle.
Still, the Gunners have conceded 14 goals in their last eight outings and opened the door for Manchester City at the top of the table, with the reigning champions a point clear with a game in hand.
Any lingering hopes of Saliba returning for the final three matches of the campaign have now been firmly dashed, with reporting that the club have finally accepted defeat in the race to get the Frenchman fit again.
There had been suggestions that the nature of Saliba’s injury remains , but he will not need to undergo surgery and should be back and recovered for pre-season.
To compound Arteta’s defensive headache, the Spanish coach will also be without Zinchenko who was forced off with a calf problem in the win over Newcastle.
The Ukrainian has been instrumental in Arsenal’s title charge but he has had a few injury niggles this season, also missing the 2-2 draw against West Ham last month.
Although the problem is only minor – and, like Saliba, will not require surgery – it will take at least two weeks to heal meaning he will not take part in the run-in.
Kieran Tierney replaced Zinchenko at St James’ Park and is likely to continue in the left-back role for upcoming matches against Brighton, Nottingham Forest and Wolves.
Arteta does, however, have the option to use Granit Xhaka at left-back if he wants to recreate the tactic of having his left-back move into midfield when in possession of the ball.
Although Rob Holding had initially come into the centre of defence to replace Saliba, Jakub Kiwior has impressed in the role more recently and is likely to continue alongside Gabriel Magalhaes for the visit of Brighton on Sunday afternoon.
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