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Premier League | Gameweek 30
Mar 31, 2024 at 4.30pm UK
Etihad Stadium
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Who could replace Bukayo Saka for Arsenal in Manchester City title showdown?

Following Bukayo Saka's injury scare, Sports Mole assesses three players who could start in place of the winger for Arsenal against Manchester City.

The words "Bukayo Saka" and "injury" being used in the same sentence can strike fear into the heart of any Arsenal fan, although some reactions to the 22-year-old's withdrawal from the England squad were positive in nature.

After being called up for the Three Lions' clashes with Brazil and Belgium, Saka was pulled out of the camp with an issue which he had reportedly been nursing before arriving at St George's Park, in what was thought to have been a precautionary measure.

Some Gooners hailed Saka's withdrawal as a savvy move from Arsenal ahead of Sunday's blockbuster tie with Manchester City, but scepticism and theories aside, there is still no guarantee that the 22-year-old will be fit to start at the Etihad.

Should Saka indeed take his seat on the bench or miss out entirely, Sports Mole runs the rule over three players who could deputise for the the Gunners' 16-goal top scorer against the treble winners.


Reiss Nelson

Arsenal's Reiss Nelson in action on December 17, 2023© Reuters

Once again acting as Saka's recognised right-wing deputy, fellow academy graduate Reiss Nelson memorably netted twice against Nottingham Forest last season after replacing his compatriot, who also came off injured in that Emirates encounter.

The 24-year-old then took the expression "super sub" to a whole new level with his astounding cameo versus Bournemouth later that season and earned a new four-year contract for his efforts, allegedly with the promise of more minutes from Mikel Arteta.

However, a player once regarded as the jewel in the Hale End crown remains firmly on the fringes of the Gunners team this season - making all 14 of his Premier League appearances from the bench and failing to register a goal or assist in the current top-flight campaign.

Nelson has had direct involvements in goals in the EFL Cup and Champions League, though, and the winger has hardly performed badly when given minutes in the second half of top-flight contests, so he will surely shoot his hand up into the air for a long-overdue Premier League start if Saka loses his race to be fit.


Gabriel Jesus

Arsenal's Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring their first goal on December 17, 2023© Reuters

In the one Premier League game that Saka has missed through injury this season - which coincidentally came in October's 1-0 triumph over Manchester City at the Emirates - former Citizens starlet Gabriel Jesus was given the nod on the right in his absence.

The Brazil international - overlooked for a national team call-up this month - completed the full 90 on that occasion but failed to have much of an impact on the Gunners' attacking display, losing possession 28 times and only having one shot in the entire match, which was blocked.

However, Arsenal's resident chaos merchant still managed to complete three successful dribbles from the right flank against his former team and could use an inspirational display on March 31 to rekindle his Gunners career, which has stalled owing to his persistent knee injuries.

Kai Havertz has capitalised on Jesus's fitness woes to make the centre-forward's spot his own in recent weeks, meaning that an injury to any of his fellow attackers will seemingly be Jesus's best route back into Arteta's starting lineup, where he has not been included since the end of January.


Fabio Vieira

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta pictured with Fabio Vieira on March 9, 2023© Reuters

A regular on the right flank during his earliest days in the Porto team, Fabio Vieira is yet to really settle at Arsenal since his 2022 arrival from his homeland, thanks in no small part to Martin Odegaard's exceptional exploits in the number 10 position.

With his preferred role not up for grabs, Vieira has tried to strut his stuff at right-wing on a couple of occasions for Arteta's team - albeit without limited success - but his penchant for playmaking and fierce left foot makes him an intriguing candidate for a start against Man City.

After making his eagerly-awaited return from a groin operation, Arteta affirmed that the Gunners would "get the best" out of the 23-year-old, whose paltry nine Premier League appearances this season have brought a respectable one goal and three assists.

Vieira was given a 45-minute run-out in Arsenal's 6-0 win over Sheffield United when Saka was taken off as a precaution, and should Nelson be snubbed again and Jesus chosen to start in place of Gabriel Martinelli - another injury doubt - on the left, Vieira's time to shine may be nigh.


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Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring for Arsenal with Gabriel Magalhaes on March 19, 2023
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