Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has explained that Bukayo Saka was left out of the matchday squad for Wednesday’s Premier League clash with Luton Town due to a lingering knock from the 0-0 draw with title rivals Manchester City over the weekend.

Saka was withdrawn 12 minutes before the end of the clash at the Etihad Stadium and was a notable omission when Arsenal released their teamsheet ahead of kick-off against Luton.

Arteta told TNT Sports ahead of kick-off that it was a decision not to risk the winger.

“He had to come off against Manchester City three days ago feeling something and he hasn’t been able to do everything that we needed to give him the chance to start the game. So we have decided not to play him,” the Gunners boss explained.

Saka’s absence contributed to Reiss Nelson being handed his first Premier League start in almost four years, since a 2-1 win over Liverpool in July 2020. The 24-year-old had made 14 Premier League appearances this season prior to kick-off, all from the bench and totalling only 180 minutes.

Reiss NelsonReiss Nelson

Reiss Nelson started in Saka’s place on the right wing / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

Speaking about Nelson’s long absence from a Premier League starting XI, Arteta said ahead of the game: “No different to any other player. They’re all very important players waiting to fill the roles. It’s amazing and today is going to be an opportunity for everybody.

“I’m expecting a tough game. Luton make life very difficult for you. They are very unpredictable in the way they play. They have a big fighting spirit. We’re going to have to earn it big time. Today is a very different challenge to three days ago but a big one as well.”

Gabriel Martinelli and Declan Rice each began the game on the bench, with Emile Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey handed opportunities to start.


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