William Saliba: Mikel Arteta regrets leaving Arsenal defender out of Europa League squad

Arsenal have just two central defenders fit for Thursday's game against Dundalk; Saliba and fellow centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos were omitted from Europa League squad; Arteta: "I feel really bad for William Saliba."

William Saliba training with Arsenal
Image: William Saliba joined Arsenal from St Etienne in July 2019 but has yet to make a senior appearance

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta regrets taking the "hurtful" decision to leave William Saliba out of his Europa League squad.

The Gunners host Dundalk on Thursday with just two recognised central defenders available to Arteta.

Arsenal have eight on their books but due to a mixture of injury and unavailability, Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel Magalhaes are the only options.

Mikel Arteta 0:34
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta says he is 'concerned' by his side's recent lack of goals

David Luiz limped out of Sunday's Premier League defeat to Leicester to join Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari in the treatment room.

Mesut Ozil's axing from Arsenal's Europa League squad may have made all the headlines but two more defenders, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Saliba, were also excluded.

Mesut Ozil and William Saliba have both been left out of Arsenal's Europa League squad
Image: Mesut Ozil and Saliba were both left out of Arsenal's Europa League squad

"I feel really bad for William Saliba," Arteta said. "Because we had so many central defenders, we decided to leave him out of the squad which was really hurtful for me to do.

"I was hoping that Pablo would be back in two weeks but he had a setback and then we don't have Pablo and we don't have William when he's fit and available to play.

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"But when you make those decisions, you can't always think about every possible outcome."

Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi 0:52
Arteta says he is 'really happy' with the progress defender Shkodran Mustafi has made since returning from a long-term knee injury

Saliba has yet to make his Arsenal debut after returning to the club this summer.

The 19-year-old joined Arsenal from St Etienne last summer for £27m - but the agreement also meant he would remain with the French side for the 2019-20 campaign.

Plans to loan him out to a Sky Bet Championship club this season were eventually shelved but he has taken time to settle in north London.

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Asked if Saliba was making progress after a tentative start to life at Arsenal, Arteta added: "Yes, he's in a much better place.

"He's feeling a lot more confident around the place, his language is improving and he's starting to understand much better what we're doing physically.

"He's played a few games with the under-23s which he needed because he didn't play any football in the last seven or eight months. Things are progressively getting better and better."

Arteta: Irish staff warned me about Dundalk

Mikel Arteta says Arsenal's Irish staff have warned him about "passionate underdogs" Dundalk ahead of their Europa League meeting.

The 14-time Republic of Ireland champions make the short trip to the Emirates to face an Arsenal side that lost at home to Leicester on Sunday - although they did win their European opener against Rapid Vienna - as Dundalk lost to Molde, despite taking a first-half lead.

The gap between the two sides is enormous in terms of quality, finances and resources but Arteta knows his team will be in for a tricky fixture against a side that has nothing to lose after qualifying for the Europa League group stage for only the second time in their history.

Mesut Ozil 0:36
Former Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere says it is 'difficult to understand' why Mesut Ozil was left out of Arsenal's 25-man Premier League squad.

Dundalk are ranked No 127 in the UEFA club coefficients for 2020/21, making them the highest-ranked Irish side in Europe, and in 2016 they became the first team from Ireland to win a match in a group stage of European competition.

"We've got some Irish staff here," said Arteta, whose side reached the Europa League final in 2019 but were eliminated at the last-32 stage last term when they were stunned 2-1 at home to Greek side Olympiakos.

"I've heard some really positive things about Dundalk. What I've seen is a really determined coach, how united they are, they are really well organised and they fight really hard.

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